Fear outweighs hope in ACTA debate
by David Martin
Amid the heated discussions, there is so far little evidence that ACTA will have its intended effect of fixing what is broken about the global enforcement of intellectual property rights, writes MEP
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement came full circle this week in the European Parliament when the international trade committee decided against a referral to the European Court of Justice and to continue full steam ahead with holding the consent vote before the summer.
So we are back where we started, with a timetable which has never officially changed. Over the next few weeks I will continue speaking to stakeholders from all sides of the debate before drawing up my recommendation to the committee on whether ACTA should be approved or rejected. The decision is – and was always going to be – a political judgement, balancing the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms with reasonable protection of copyright and intellectual property.
The context of the agreement is the Europe 2020 agenda and the importance of intellectual property as our raw material in Europe. To compete globally, to really fuel the economic recovery and to help create the jobs in Europe we so desperately need, our creative industries and creative citizens must have their legal rights upheld in global trade. The debate around ACTA is not centred on if there is a need to further protect intellectual property, but how, and whether this treaty is the appropriate solution to serious problems.
The central question is: does ACTA raise more hopes than fears, or more fears than hopes? Proponents of the agreement stress that it will not change European legislation. Indeed, this is emphasised as a 'plus' of the treaty. The parties to the agreement are already strongly committed to clamping down on domestic counterfeiting and piracy and have legislation to reflect this. The hope is that the agreement will create an internationally-recognised standard for cooperation in enforcing anti-counterfeiting and anti-piracy legislation; a benchmark for emerging economies. But so far there is little evidence that it will have the intended effect. Indeed several non-signatories have stressed their opposition to the agreement.
As for the fears, plenty have emerged. On the restriction of fundamental rights, the criminalisation of individuals and the threats to the transit of generic medicines, question marks still hang over a number of important issues. I continue to stress the importance of analysing the very real concerns in these areas, and not the myths which went viral. But on the substantive issues, there is a real danger that such an intentionally vague text on enforcement could have very dangerous consequences if applied zealously.
The work goes on. What has emerged so far are more fears than hopes that ACTA will fix what is broken about global enforcement of intellectual property rights. Could it be that the more the ACTA signatories change, the more the non-signatories stay the same?
David Martin MEP is a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and sits on the international trade committee in the European Parliament
I don't buy De Gucht's views about *entertainment* being the future of the EU economy and I don't like to see his claims being repeated. The EU's creative industries are small, highly regionalised and mostly state-subsidised. Moreover, Europe's imports of audiovisual works exceed its exports by a ratio of four to one, and therefore gave us a net trade deficit of around $11bn in 2010, according to the World Bank
Instead of obsessing over how we can cripple our internet with ACTA, IPRED and other draconian laws, just to hand copyright beneficiaries superfluous new powers to send money abroad - we should focus all our energies on new ways to open Europe's borders to the cultural exchange of our own obscure and neglected European-made art.