Friday 27 January 2012

Signed, sealed, delivered - you're mine

With PIPA, SOPA and Mega hogging all the news space, the European Union and twenty two of its member states have signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which is designed to ensure a basic system of global intellectual property protection. The signing ceremony went quietly in Tokyo yesterday (although there were some very public protests in Poland) and only five EU countries did not sign up yesterday - Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia, Cyprus and Slovakia - though they are expected to sign in due course. The EU signature itself must be confirmed by a vote of the European Parliament scheduled for June. The signatories join the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Morocco, who all signed up last October.

While there have been protests, supporters of the Treaty say that it does not commit signatories to any of the more extreme anti-piracy measures some countries have adopted (such as three strikes law in France) some expected or predicted, and supporters in Europe insist the agreement will simply force other participating countries to ensure the basic IP protections that already exist within the EU. But interestingly Kader Arif, the French MEP charged with the task of compiling background information about the Treaty for the European Parliament, quit his role and hit out at the way ACTA has been handled saying "I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, and the exclusion of the EU Parliament's demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly" adding "As rapporteur of this text, I have faced never before seen manoeuvres from the right wing of this parliament to impose a rushed calendar before public opinion could be alerted, thus depriving the parliament of its right to expression and of the tools at its disposal to convey citizens' legitimate demands. 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.”

Arif concluded by saying "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".

Image - 'V' masked MPs in Poland protest against ACTA

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