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Thursday, 16 February 2012

ACTA: Reding makes statement, EU now under immense pressure from within and without to find an exit strategy

There's now so much mud being slung that it's hard to keep track of fact from politicking regarding ACTA.

The position that no new EC Directives will be needed is credible, although I don't think many can say for sure without a thorough legal opinion.

And a legal opinion on compatibility with existing EC law is just what Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding called for this week:
"I therefore welcome the intention of several members of the European  Parliament to ask the European Court of Justice for a legal opinion to clarify that the ACTA agreement cannot limit freedom of expression and freedom of the Internet"
In her statement, Viviane Reding also firmly states that intellectual property (IP), whilst a fundamental property right under EU law, "is not an absolute fundamental right" and protection of IP must be balanced against other fundamental rights.  Therefore, she continues:
"Copyright protection can never be a justification for eliminating freedom of expression or freedom of information. That is why for me, blocking the Internet is never an option"  (and that's her bold, not mine).
Regardless of whether existing EU law needs to change in light of ACTA, there is a legitimate concern that it will lock EU countries into current laws that may otherwise need to change in future.

Plus there remains a massive question over the wisdom of setting up a second international organisation in parallel to existing World Trade Organisation committees like WIPO to oversee trade in intellectual property; leading to duplication, increased legislative red tape and confusion.

Pressure on the EU and European governments increased further yesterday when EDRi published leaked minutes showing the Commission is considering a "tactical retreat" on ACTA in the face of widespread protests last weekend and the announcement of delayed ratification in Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria.

Some MPs in the UK have told me privately they also have concerns regarding ACTA.

It's worth noting some of the copyright protection measures being pushed in ACTA are remarkably similar to measures in the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty, resulting in e.g. Directive 2001/29/EC which brought criminal sanctions, injunctions on service providers and outlawed circumvention of digital content locks.

Rather than use such existing EU law as justification for ACTA, I ask why EC officials, country trade delegates and politicians have wasted the best part of 3 years concocting a controversial treaty in secret and outside the world bodies already established to deal with cross-border copyright issues.

@JamesFirth

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