European Parliament makes strong progress on outlawing counterfeiting

The Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) between the European Union,  Australia,  Canada, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerlandand the USA has been the focus of much attention over the past few weeks.

I have received a number of emails and have been regularly “tweeted” on the issue. Since it is a matter of concern, I have decided to post the following, which I hope will address the points which have been raised.

ACTA must target only commercial and not individual counterfeiters. I am strongly of the view, as are my fellow Labour MEPs, that the need to address serious counterfeiting should not lead to any erosion of civil liberties. In this regard I and other Labour MEPs object to any ‘three strike’ rule whereby Internet service providers can suspend the Internet connection of copyright infringers after two warnings. Equally my colleagues and I do not support so called border measures such as the searching by Customs of travellers’ iPods or laptops for illegally downloaded files.

Labour MEPs also share the frustrations of many constituents who believed the negotiations should have been conducted in a more transparent manner. The European Parliament put significant pressure on the European Commission during the negotiations to increase transparency. The European Commission was successful in persuading other ACTA negotiating partners to release a consolidated negotiating text. While the European Parliament continued to call for the further release of all negotiating texts with individual country positions, we were disappointed that further opening up of the negotiations could not be agreed by all negotiating parties.

The European Parliament now has a formal role in the eventual approval or rejection of this Agreement. The negotiations were concluded in November 2010, and each negotiating party is now in the process of ratifying and signing the Agreement. In the EU this requires agreement from the Council of Ministers (made up of the 27 Member States) and the European Parliament. On Thursday 26th January 2012 twenty-two Member States (including the UK) signed the agreement. The European Parliament will now draft a report to recommend whether or not Parliament should give its approval to the Agreement, and this will be done by the International Trade committee. This is expected to begin next month. Parliament’s political leverage over the European Commission has therefore been substantial given that the Agreement cannot be ratified without Parliament’s approval.

In addition to its legislative role, the European Parliament monitored the negotiations throughout the 11 rounds and adopted Resolutions highlighting our priorities to the Commission. In March 2010 my colleague David Martin MEP – in his capacity as Labour spokesperson on International Trade in the European Parliament – co-authored a Resolution which was adopted by Parliament. In November 2010 in response to the release of the draft text the Parliament again adopted a Resolution.

The European Parliament successfully incorporated several points on transparency and civil liberties into the Resolutions. Firstly we made it clear that the European Commission – as the EU’s negotiator in ACTA – needed to put pressure on the other participants to open up the negotiations to public scrutiny through the publication of a draft negotiating text.

The Parliament also stated that ACTA should not extend beyond the European Community ‘acquis’ or, in other words, no new intellectual property legislation should be created as a result. The European Union is a signatory to various international Agreements on intellectual property such as the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). It is important for the European Parliamentary Labour Party that ACTA is consistent with TRIPS and other existing Agreements on Intellectual Property.

You may be interested to read the full resolutions available here: ACTA Plenary Resolution 10 March 2010  and here: ACTA Plenary Resolution 24 November 2010 or watch the debate in which my colleague David Martin spoke: ACTA Plenary debate 9 March 2010

The final text of the Agreement can be read here: Final ACTA text

5 Comments

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5 responses to “European Parliament makes strong progress on outlawing counterfeiting

  1. Thats all good and well, but the EU institutions, thats both the Commission and the EP are terrible at communicating to all us mere mortal European plebs? There was a thunder storm on twitter over ACTA, thinking it was the European version of the US SOPA?
    The EU institutions burying themselves under a mountain of jargon, that no one can understand what the hell they are saying any more?

  2. Frank Fielding

    Hi,

    Thank you for taking on some of the extremes of ACTA, but just because of these improvements, the legislation is still not acceptable to me & millions of others. The issue of generic drugs is completely unaddressed, ACTA would make many generics asn offense to sell, increasing health care costs for the very poorest.

    Seed patents are another cornerstone of this legislation, giving more power & control of our food to corporate agribusiness giants.

    But it is the multitude of issues which would effect the internet, you touched on a couple, ACTA introduces a concept of ‘illegal software’, making ISPs liable for free, open-source software, which circumnavigates Digital Rights Management (DRM) schemes. Free, open source software, has been one of the gifts the Internet has managed to spread, and should be protected at all costs. Would this poart of ACTA effect Linux? It is unclear, the language is, maybe intentionally, vague.

    ISPs would still be liabel for the content that they deliver, meaning that all it would take is a complaint from a business (with no court order), for the ISP to feel compelled to remove the site, ie. block it. Internet blocks are incompatible with democracy, which demands a free & functioning flow of information to thrive.

    ISPs would also be compelled to hand over user details to any party which suspected the user of online fringement. Again, this would be a matter carried out without the courtsd, on the say so of a media company, many of which have been caught lying already, for them only tio be given more powers.

    ACTA cannot be voted for by anyone who truly believes in freedom, democracy, openness & expression. It is the enemy of the people, created by corporations & is little more than a power grab. Please reconsider your opinion on this matter, this really coiuld be a definiing piece of legislation of the 21st century.

    Thank you,
    Frank,

  3. Anonymous

    Frank Fielding has made the points that I wished to make. I would go a little further though and say that the whilst we, the public and smaller businesses are fed little scraps so we can get indignant and rant a bit about privacy and the invasion thereof,underneath is a raft of empowering legislation that is there to be abused by corporate interests when they so choose.

    It seems fairly clear from Mary’s post that MEP’s have, in the case of potential infringements of personal liberties, done what they can to modify this part of the act. But what of those parts of the act that deal with other issues and matters?

    This bill is about as good for consumers and a free and just society as the Patriot Act is good for the rights of American Citizens. It has every appearance of being a very dangerous piece of legislation indeed, in the interests of furthering the multinational corporations relentless encroachment on human and societal values.

    Let us have a clearer exposition of why the UK government has signed the Agreement, and what the position is over ALL the provisions of ACTA, not just the privacy issues.

  4. “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA is about world-wide internet censorship, chinese way. Simply type SOPA into Google or bing and read up about that and protest against it. Everyone will be damaged badly by it.

  5. Thanks for putting this up – I’m very happy to see my MEP addressing this important issue. However, I’m afraid that ACTA will have only marginal effects on counterfeiting, despite its claims: specifically it will have no effect on this problem in the EU, as proved by the EU’s own figures.

    The European Commission has emphasised the damage that counterfeit goods are doing to the European economy, and the threat they represent to jobs. Here, for example, is what it said in its latest ACTA press release (http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/12/354&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en):

    “ACTA is an international trade agreement that will help countries work together to tackle more effectively large-scale Intellectual Property Rights violations. Citizens will benefit from ACTA because it will help protect Europe’s raw material – innovations and ideas

    As Europe is losing billions of Euros annually through counterfeit goods flooding our markets, protecting Intellectual Property Rights means protecting jobs in the EU. It also means consumer safety and secure products.

    The EU’s national customs authorities have registered that counterfeit goods entering the EU have tripled between 2005 and 2010.

    Statistics published by the European Commission in July 2011 show a tremendous upward trend in the number of shipments suspected of violating IPR. Customs in 2010 registered around 80,000 cases, a figure that has almost doubled since 2009. More than 103 million fake products were detained at the EU external border.”

    But the Commission’s own statistics on counterfeiting, referred to above, have the following to say (http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/11/506&format=HTML&aged=0&language=en&guiLanguage=en):

    “In 2010, 85% of the total amount of articles infringing IPR came from China. This represents an important increase compared to 2009 (64%). Other countries were the main source of provenance for different product categories, notably Turkey for foodstuff, Thailand for non-alcoholic beverages, Hong Kong for memory cards and India for medicines.

    None of those countries is a signatory to ACTA. This means that even if ratified, ACTA will have zero effect on those countries’ output of counterfeits. ACTA will only affect signatories, and the only signatory that is mentioned in the Commission’s own list of top counterfeits is Greece, which supplies 0.91% of counterfeit goods in the EU. In other words, 99.09% of counterfeit goods will be unaffected if ACTA goes into effect. ACTA will do nothing to protect European citizens against counterfeits, which must be tackled with the laws we already have. We simply don’t need ACTA.