June 26, 2012

Contact your MEP over ACTA

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The European Parliament plenary session will discuss ACTA on the 3rd of July, followed by a plenary vote the next day. The biggest group in Parliament, the EPP, is still in favour of ACTA, and most committee votes were close. Proponents of ACTA are very active.

David Martin, the Parliament’s rapporteur on ACTA, told that at first he just thought protecting intellectual property rights is good, he was inclined to be in favour of ACTA. Only after he looked closer, he became critical. Many Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), not involved in the committees that voted on ACTA, may still be insufficiently informed. As voting discipline in the Parliament is low, they may still vote in favour of ACTA.

We invite you to contact national MEPs before the vote.

What may happen?

Urgent, update: The EPP will ask to postpone the vote!

This would be a false approach. The Court’s test is a marginal one on fundamental rights. The Parliament’s committees also looked at broader issues, like innovation and access to medicine. The Parliament has to take a political decision.

Ask your MEP to ensure the vote goes on.

If the votes continues, the Parliament will vote yes or no on ACTA in a roll call vote.

After four opinions and one report advising rejection, the Parliament would seriously compromise its credibility if it would vote in favour of ACTA.

The EPP suggests to ask guarantees from the Commission to ensure legal clarity. Such guarantees can only be empty. They are not binding on the Commission nor on companies, here and outside Europe. Furthermore, ACTA’s interpretation may ultimately depend on external dispute resolution panels.

Main concerns for software developers and innovators

ACTA contains heightened civil enforcement and intrusive criminal measures. It lacks an analysis of extra-territorial privatised enforcement, this endangers European companies and citizens.

Many US Internet companies operate on a global scale and apply US law extra-territorially, on EU companies and citizens. This is a disturbing trend. ACTA adds an obligation on the US to stimulate cooperative efforts within the globally operating US business community. The US – and other ACTA parties – can use this to harm EU competition and citizens. The business community is not interested in guaranteeing fair competition or fundamental rights. Extraterritorial criminal measures are also a grave concern.

Because of the complexity of intellectual property rights legislation, innovative businesses are often forced to operate in a legal “grey zone”. This will make EU companies and their customers vulnerable to foreign extraterritorial measures. The European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights do not protect EU companies and citizens against foreign extraterritorial measures.

The Internet is a key enabler of innovation and fundamental rights. ACTA’s civil measures will have a chilling effect on innovative companies. ACTA introduces damages based on retail price, they may turn out extremely high. ACTA contains intrusive injunctions and provisional measures, including against third parties, like software suppliers. Companies must become more risk adverse, even when the activity they are engaged in may ultimately be legal. Further pressure on companies and citizens comes from ACTA’s criminal measures against everyday computer use, including against “aiding” and “abetting”.

ACTA will have anti-competitive effects stretching beyond the markets it seeks to regulate. It will create an environment where large competitors will have major advantages over smaller firms and start-ups, even extra-territorially. ACTA will have a chilling effect on innovation, start up companies, Internet service providers and mass digitization projects.

ACTA will foreclose future legislative improvements in response to changes in technology or policy. The Union should retain much needed policy space.

Since the ACTA partners already have a high level of protection of intellectual property rights, a 2011 study commissioned by the European Parliament International Trade committee concludes, that there does not appear to be any immediate benefit from ACTA for EU citizens.

Emerging economies like China, Brazil and India will not sign ACTA, as ACTA endangers their development and access to medicine and knowledge. Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development advises developing countries against signing ACTA. As they are emerging economies, the German ministry should also have advised Eastern European countries not to sign ACTA.

ACTA does not bring solutions, nor benefits, but only unacceptable risks. The Parliament has to take a stand and reject ACTA.

Share your concerns

How would ACTA add risk to your business or project? What are you working on? Please share your concerns with the national MEPs. As always, please stay polite.

You may like to send personalized (short) letters with your professional letter head to Members of Parliament from your own country. Better even, you may like to call the MEPs’ offices. Our colleagues from EDRi offer practical advise: http://edri.org/stopacta

La Quadrature du Net offers a free phone call tool. https://piphone.lqdn.fr/

Target the right MEPs

Let’s not alienate our friends, see this tweet. It is a good idea to first check the track record. (La Quadrature du Net’s free phone call tool mentioned above already excludes MEPs which are solidly on are side.)

To Polish and Bulgarian MEPs you may send more gentle “thank you for understanding” messages.

You can find contact information at the European Parliament website (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/search.html), La Quadrature’s Political Memory (https://memopol.lqdn.fr/) and Euwiki (http://parltrack.euwiki.org/meps/).

For further analysis see:
Note on the Legal Service’s Opinion on ACTA: http://acta.ffii.org/?p=992
FFII general analysis: http://action.ffii.org/acta/Analysis
EDRi: http://edri.org/ACTA_Week
La Quadrature du Net: http://www.laquadrature.net/en/ACTA
Extraterritorial privatized enforcement: http://acta.ffii.org/?p=1342
Studies and Opinions on ACTA: http://acta.ffii.org/?p=1156

Please consider supporting our campaigns:
http://www.ffii.org/Donations

Unitary patent

See also: EU to waive its powers to define a patent policy

Update: Amendments have been filed by the Greens. See the Voting recommendations.