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By: MarkJ - 24 November, 2010 (1:10 PM)
acta internet copyright lawThe European Parliament has adopted a new resolution that effectively approves the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which seeks to establish international standards on intellectual property rights (copyright) enforcement (i.e. such as through broadband ISPs or at airports etc.).

Calling it a "step in the right direction", the parliament welcomed a number of recent moves to soften some of ACTA's more aggressive text. Crucially, the European Commission (EC) recently stated that "neither personal searches nor the so-called ‘three strikes’ procedure will be introduced by this agreement".

The new resolution was approved today with 331 votes in favour, 294 against, and 11 abstentions. However MEP's also called on the EC "to confirm that ACTA’s implementation will have no impact on fundamental rights and data protection, on the ongoing EU efforts to harmonise intellectual property rights enforcement measures, or on e-commerce".

John Lovelock, CEO for the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), said:

"What is this voluntary trade agreement worth in real terms and does it actually add anything new to the international intellectual property enforcement framework? The answer has to be ‘not a lot’ unless it acts as a springboard for UK statutory damages following the example of the USA?

Pre established damages would help against infringements where the court only awards the missing licence fee. It is a change to the law that we really need. It would provide deterrence against infringers without needing to revert to the criminal law for deterrence alone which has its own complications with the raised burden of proof being number one.

Since the Gowers Review in 2006, we have been arguing for a deterrent to infringers, ACTA should be the inspiration on statutory damages in the new IP-Review recently announced by the [UK] Prime Minister."

It's worth pointing out that ACTA itself won't have much effect in either Europe or the UK (i.e. Digital Economy Act 2010). It does not go beyond or require any changes in the existing EU intellectual property rights legislation and EU/UK law in general is "already considerably more advanced," said MEP's. However not everybody agrees with that and our October study of the near final text revealed some remaining problem areas (here).

Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for the citizen organization La Quadrature du Net, said:

"This vote is a terrible blow to EU citizens. It shows that the conservatives and some of their allies can get the Parliament to vote in favor of ACTA. We must keep in mind that the most important vote will be the forthcoming 'assent' vote, when the European Parliament will have an opportunity to reject ACTA as a whole.

All citizens concerned with democratic law-making, the preservation of the online ecosystem, freedom of speech, privacy and access to medicines should work with their elected representatives to make sure that the European Parliament does not give its assent to ACTA."

Participants in the negotiations included Australia, Canada, the European Union (EU) - represented by the European Commission (EC), the EU Presidency and EU Member States + Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and of course the United States of America (USA).

A technical meeting to finalise the legal wording will take place in Sydney (Australia) between 30th November and 3rd December 2010.
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