ACTA given thumbs down by European Parliament Trade Committee
Full parliamentary vote on the treaty delayed until July
TechLife | 21 Jun 2012 :
The European Parliament's trade committee, INTA, has recommended rejecting the ACTA anti-piracy treaty. It also decided not to postpone the parliamentary vote on the controversial agreement.
The committee voted 19 to 12 to recommend rejecting ACTA. INTA is the lead committee examining the international agreement and its recommendation will carry weight with the rest of the Parliament.
Copyright has been a huge issue this year but the debate is turning into a case of 'all's well that ends well'. Both SOPA and PIPA stalled in the US and are unlikely to be revisited after mass demonstrations on the Internet. ACTA, a much scarier piece of legislation for its international scale, was never likely to succeed at EU level for the simple fact that it contravenes one of the central tenets of the EU: the unfettered transfer of ideas, goods and services across borders.
The current situation presents Ireland with a unique opportunity to become a thought leader in the handling of copyright as the state's own Copyright Review Commission gets ready to issue its report later this summer.
So, while the question of how to deal with copyright infringement in the digital economy remains at least we can add another series of inadequate legislative measures to the pile marked 'how not to handle the problem.'
The full Parliamentary plenary vote is now scheduled for 3 July. It seems likely that the Parliament will reject the treaty, which has caused widespread concern among civil liberties groups. This is despite attempts by the European Commission, which negotiated the agreement on behalf of the EU, to push the deal through.
ACTA seeks to enforce intellectual property rights and combat online piracy and illegal software. But digital rights groups had worried that the final wording of the agreement would leave the door open for Internet service providers to be forced to police their customers. According to the final ACTA text, a country may "order an online service provider to disclose expeditiously to a right holder information sufficient to identify a subscriber whose account was allegedly used for infringement".
Although the express aim of the agreement is to clamp down on "commercial scale" piracy of intellectual property, this scale is poorly defined in the agreement. Even European Conservatives and Reformists parliamentarian Syed Kamall, who was in favour of waiting for a ruling from the European Court of Justice before reaching a decision on ACTA, said on Wednesday that he had concerns about the definition of "commercial scale". However, he added that fears about ISPs becoming the unofficial police force of the Internet were a matter of interpretation.
Other digital rights groups, including EDRi and La Quadrature du Net, have raised concerns about so-called 'dual use' technologies as the agreement also requires more extensive policing of the circumvention of technical protection measures than is currently required in international agreements.
In April, Europe's top data privacy watchdog, the European Data Protection Supervisor, also strongly criticised the agreement warning that it could lead to widespread monitoring of the Internet and breaches of individuals' right to privacy. He added that many of the measures to strengthen IP enforcement online could involve "the large scale monitoring of users' behaviour and of their electronic communications" including e-mails, private peer-to-peer file sharing and websites visited.
The trade committee's vote on Thursday makes the opinions of the committees called on to assess the treaty unanimous. The Parliament's legal affairs, development, civil liberties and industry committees all voted to reject ACTA last month.
ACTA can only enter into force after ratification by six signatory states of the total 11, which include the European Union, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the US It was signed by the European Commission and 22 EU member states in January, but before it can become EU law it must be approved by the European Parliament.
IDG News Service