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Council of the European Union Quietly Adopts ACTA Internet Copyright Treaty

Posted: 20th Dec, 2011 By: MarkJ
europe map digital agendaacta internet copyright lawThe Council of the European Union (CEU), a legislative body that represents the executives of member states (UK, France, Germany etc.), has quietly adopted the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The treaty seeks to establish international standards on intellectual property rights (copyright) enforcement (i.e. such as through broadband ISPs or at airports etc.).

The treaty, which was essentially waved through over the weekend as part of a bizarre agriculture and fisheries meeting, originally contained clauses that risked turning internet providers into an unofficial copyright police force (details). The text has since been watered down (here) and now contains some additional (but still quite ambiguous) references to preserving fundamental principles (i.e. freedom of expression, fair process and privacy).

Council of the European Union Statement

The Council adopted a decision authorising the signing of an anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) with Australia, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States.

ACTA is aimed at establishing an international framework to improve the enforcement of intellectual property right laws and create improved international standards for actions against large-scale infringements of intellectual property. Negotiations were concluded in November 2010.

So far ACTA, outside of private negotiations between states, has seen precious little scrutiny by elected officials. Its status as a 'trade agreement' has allowed it to bypass due process, despite the fact that it would appear to go well beyond the remit of a mere trade deal.

Jérémie Zimmermann, Spokesperson for La Quadrature du Net, said:

"Our governments are bypassing democratic processes to impose draconian repressive measures. They know that such measures would be very difficult to obtain through regular legislative process, so they have them imposed through the back door.

By privatizing online censorship in the name of copyright, ACTA would have a dreadful impact on our freedoms online, but also on innovation and growth for Internet companies. The European Parliament is our last chance to reject ACTA. We, as citizens, must act now."

The European Parliament (EP) does indeed have a chance to stop ACTA but in reality that's highly unlikely to happen because they already cleared the final text in November 2010 (here). Indeed at the time ACTA, which hasn't changed much since last year, was described by the EP as a "step in the right direction".

Last year the European Commission (EC) also stated that "neither personal searches nor the so-called ‘three strikes’ procedure will be introduced by [ACTA]". Indeed ACTA won't have much of an effect in the UK because our domestic laws (i.e. Digital Economy Act) are already considerably more advanced. Of course the DEAct has yet to be introduced due to various technical and legal dilemmas.
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