January 19, 2012

Will the EP Development committee betray billions of people?

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Tuesday 24 January 2012, around 16.30 CET, the European Parliament Committee on Development will hold an exchange of views on ACTA. The Committee’s draft opinion is available here.

Update: The Development committee may already vote on the draft opinion on February 29th.

Update: see our letter to the committee.

I think it is a disgusting draft, a scandal. All the lies the Commission has been spreading are incorporated.

Regarding compatibility with current EU law, the acquis, see our FFII note on the Legal Service’s Opinion on ACTA. Only by consistently overlooking known issues it is possible to claim that ACTA is compatible with current EU legislation.

Many civil society groups, among others Oxfam and Public Citizen, and an academic opinion pointed out problems with access to medicine.

But the draft opinion “appreciates the unequivocal language of ACTA provisions which safeguard access to public health and recognise the principles enshrined in the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.” – while the Doha Declaration is mentioned only once in ACTA’s non binding preamble.

The draft report does not mention the global pricing problem. Not only medicines are often sold for the same prices in developing countries as in the US and the EU. The same is true for CDs and DVDs. Relative to local incomes in Brazil, Russia, or South Africa, the price of a CD, DVD, or copy of Microsoft Office is five to ten times higher than in the United States or Europe, the Media Piracy in Emerging Economies report shows. There is no distribution of legal CDs and DVDs outside the capitals. Some 90% of the people in emerging economies can only turn to illegal media copies. Stronger enforcement can not solve the piracy problem, which is basically a global pricing problem, a sign of market failure.

We all know pictures of big piles of illegal CDs to be destroyed by a bulldozer. We may think: finally country X takes action against piracy. The real story behind these pictures is that these illegal copies are the only way 90% of the people in emerging economies can enjoy software, music and movies. The costs in social welfare of harsh measures are enormous.

ACTA will negatively impact innovation, start up companies, mass digitization projects, access to medicines and Internet governance. ACTA threatens the rule of law and fundamental rights.

But the Development Committee’s rapporteur rather denies all problems. Will Europe betray billions of people?