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European Parliament Demands Openness from ACTA Negotiations

Posted: 10th Mar, 2010 By: MarkJ
ACTA online piracyThe European Parliament has approved a common resolution that calls for openness over Europe and the USA's Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations. ACTA is a treaty that has been in the works for over two years and seeks to establish international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement, such as against those suspected of unlawfully downloading copyright content through their ISP.

In recent months fears have grown that ACTA could bypass the democratic system and impose new measures that might lead to graduated response, criminal sanctions, US-style 'Notice and Take Down' and force broadband ISPs, indirectly, into generalised monitoring of Internet traffic and services. This has been fuelled by the apparent secrecy of the whole process.

The new resolution, supported by five major political groups, urges the European Commission (EC) to establish transparency on ACTA by releasing negotiation documents. It strongly asserts the role of the Parliament in the EU, warning that the EP will not hesitate to call on the European Court of Justice to defend its co-legislator powers.

Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net, said:

"The vote of the resolution by 663 MEPs against 13 is a striking political signal for EU negotiators and Member States. The European Parliament almost unanimously states that it won't tolerate ACTA's untransparent negotiation process.

This resolution is an important first step, and the Parliament now has the opportunity to set clear red lines to the EU negotiators with the written declaration 12/2010."

The Written declaration 12/2010 itself was initiated by the Members of European Parliament Françoise Castex (S&D, FR), Alexander Alvaro (ALDE, DE), Stavros Lambrinidis (S&D, GR) and Zuzana Roithova (EPP, CZ). The parliament fears that ACTA could radically harm Net neutrality and civil liberties by turning ISPs into a private police force to tackle online file-sharing. The main points of this declaration are as follows.
The Written Declaration

1. Takes the view that the proposed agreement should not indirectly impose harmonisation of EU copyright, patent or trademark law, and that the principle of subsidiarity should be respected;

2. Declares that the Commission should immediately make all documents related to the ongoing negotiations publicly available;

3. Takes the view that the proposed agreement should not force limitations upon judicial due process or weaken fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and the right to privacy;

4. Stresses that economic and innovation risks must be evaluated prior to introducing criminal sanctions where civil measures are already in place;

5. Takes the view that internet service providers [ISP] should not bear liability for the data they transmit or host through their services to an extent that would necessitate prior surveillance or filtering of such data;

6. Points out that any measure aimed at strengthening powers of cross-border inspection and seizure of goods should not harm global access to legal, affordable and safe medicines;

7. Instructs its President to forward this declaration, together with the names of the signatories, to the Commission, the Council and the parliaments of the Member States.
It remains to be seen how much of an impact this will have, with many consumer groups and European ISPs also warning about the threat faced from ACTA.
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