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By: MarkJ - 8 February, 2012 (7:13 AM)
david martin scotland mepacta internet copyright lawScotland's most senior European Member of Parliament (MEP), David Martin (Scottish Labour), has been appointed to replace outspoken Kader Arif as the European Parliament's (EP) rapporteur (investigator) for the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

The treaty, which aims to establish a broad range of new international copyright enforcement standards (e.g. such as making ISPs liabel for the content they deliver [an unofficial copyright police force]), hit the news again last month after it was signed by the UK and 22 EU member states (here).

As a result the baton was passed back to the European Parliament (EP), which still has the power to block ACTA but it probably won't (here's why). Shortly after that ACTA's previous rapporteur, Kader Arif, launched a scathing attack that effectively denounced the treaty "in the strongest possible manner".

Ex-ACTA Rapporteur, Kader Arif, said:

"Everyone knows the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether it is its impact on civil liberties, the way it makes Internet access providers liable, its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little protection it gives to our geographical indications.

This agreement might have major consequences on citizens' lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade."

Since then the hunt has been on to find a replacement for Kader Arif and, with many anti-ACTA MEP's choosing to refuse the poisoned chalice position, it hasn't been an easy task. Thankfully they eventually found someone crazy enough Scottish Labour MEP, David Martin, to do the job.

Naturally it didn't take long before Martin came under attack from La Quadrature du Net, an often outspoken advocacy group that works to defend the rights and freedoms of citizens on the Internet.

The group claims that Martin's appointment is a "worrying sign" and accuses him of having a "poor" record of "protecting freedoms online" (i.e. he has a record of voting both for and against some controversial ACTA provisions - HERE). However, during an earlier March 2010 debate at the EP, Martin actually said something quite sensible (note: this is before ACTA's text was made public).

David Martin, Speaking on behalf of the S&D Group, said (March 2010):

"Similarly, you said you would not criminalise individuals for downloading from the Internet, but then you talked about the external borders of the Community and what might happen with people going away rather than coming into the EU, so again, we do not want anything in ACTA which criminalises anyone for individual use. Even though we might frown on it, nobody should be criminalised for personal use of copyright material.

Of course, any action through ACTA has to be proportional to the aims. It is not a blank cheque for copyright holders."

As usual what a politician says and what a politician does are often two completely different things, although it remains to be seen whether Martin will have any input for good or ill. A final vote is due before June 2012. Meanwhile the Czech Republic and Poland both seem to be pausing their plans for ACTA ratification, which could stall its implementation.
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