June 14, 2012

De Gucht will address the INTA committee on ACTA

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According to sources in the Parliament, Trade Commissioner De Gucht invited himself to the Parliament’s International Trade committee (INTA). He will address the committee just before the vote on ACTA.

The INTA committee will vote on ACTA on 21 June, at 10 am. De Gucht is expected to call upon the committee to propose to Parliament to wait until the European Court of Justice delivered its opinion on ACTA. The Court will marginally test ACTA.

The Commission refused to commission independent impact assessments on the effects ACTA may have on access to medicine and diffusion of green technology, needed to fight climate change. The Commission only asked the Court an opinion on ACTA and fundamental rights after tens of thousands protested in the streets of Europe.

In public, the Commission states that ACTA is in line with current EU law. A leaked internal document shows the Commission knew all the time that statement is not true.

A full political assessment is necessary, not just a marginal test. The Parliament should not wait for the Court. Nor should the Parliament trust non-binding Commission reassurances.

Today the FFII sent a letter to the INTA committee:

ACTA: Extraterritorial privatized enforcement will harm European companies and citizens

Dear Members of the International Trade committee,

We are writing to express our concerns with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). ACTA lacks an analysis of extraterritorial privatized enforcement.

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. 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.

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 foreclose future legislative improvements in response to changes in technology or policy. EU law is relatively new and under review, the Union should retain much needed policy space.

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.

We urge you to reject ACTA.

The Parliament should not wait for the Court’s decision. The Court will only test ACTA marginally. A full political assessment is necessary. Nor should the Parliament trust non-binding Commission reassurances.

Yours sincerely,

Ante Wessels

Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII)

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Committee homepage, stream will be published here | Documents: draft agenda and ACTA documents (point 18), including consolidated committee opinions | FFII on INTA amendments