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European Parliament’s president expresses ACTA concerns

By | Published on Tuesday 14 February 2012


Opponents to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement got a boost yesterday when the President of the European Parliament, who chairs debates within the European legislature and represents the interests of the parliament within the wider European Union, said he had reservations about the global intellectual property agreement.

As previously reported, ACTA, which took years of negotiations to write, has been subject to increased opposition in recent weeks, despite it being signed by many participating countries last year. High profile protests against anti-piracy proposals SOPA and PIPA in the US helped rally opposition to ACTA, especially in Europe, where the agreement was only signed last month.

Although much of this opposition is coming after the fact – the European Union and most of its member states have already signed the treaty – the agreement is yet to be approved by the European Parliament. Meanwhile, with opposition to ACTA becoming increasingly vocal, politicians in those European countries which did not sign up last month, are now expressing concerns about the agreement.

Plus ministers in some of those European states that did sign are also expressing more caution, with the Polish government – which ignored protests there last month and went ahead and signed ACTA – now saying it is planning a public consultation before making any changes to the country’s IP laws to ensure the terms of the agreement are met.

European Parliament President, German MEP Martin Schulz, told a TV network in his home country that he didn’t think ACTA was “good in its current form”, adding that the need to appropriately balance the interests of copyright owners and individual net users is “inadequately anchored in this agreement”.

The chief of the UK Pirate Party, Loz Kaye, has welcomed rising concern in European political circles with regards ACTA, telling the BBC: “One of the things that’s very interesting is that now the ACTA agreement is coming under fire from all sides. It’s becoming clear that European citizens are very concerned about this agreement. It’s hard to find anyone who is standing up for it right now”. Of course the UK government is still standing up for ACTA, telling reporters this weekend that the agreement provided an “international standard for tackling large-scale infringements”.

As previously reported, supporters of the Agreement insist it doesn’t introduce any new IP laws into Europe, with the principles of ACTA already ingrained in European law. And it does seem that most of the complaints raised by ACTA opponents are either misleading (ie not really in the agreement, and rely on a ‘thin end of the wedge’ arguments) or are about rules or practices that already exist, generally without controversy, in UK law, either explicitly in statute or via judicial precedent.

But nevertheless, the anti-ACTA movement does seem to be gaining real momentum in Europe, and especially Eastern Europe, which could ensure a rocky ride for the Agreement when the European Parliament discussed it in June.