May 28, 2012

Extraterritorial privatized enforcement will harm European companies and citizens

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This week three European Parliament committees will vote on ACTA: Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), Legal Affairs (JURI), and Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). Today the FFII sent letters to the three committees that will vote this week.

Our letter to the Industry, Research and Energy committee:

ACTA: Extraterritorial privatized enforcement will harm European companies and citizens

Dear Members of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy,

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (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 and fundamental rights. ACTA’s best practices approach may further distort the situation. 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. Internet service providers may decide to pre-emptively censor Internet communications.

On an international level, 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 call upon you to propose to reject ACTA.

Yours sincerely,

Ante Wessels

Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure

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The votes will take place on Thursday, May 31. A day earlier, the JURI committee will exchange views on ACTA. For agenda’s and video streams, see the homepages of the LIBE, JURI and ITRE committees. See also the Parliament’s procedure file.

The LIBE and ITRE Rapporteurs’ draft opinions are critical about ACTA, the committees will vote on amendments to these draft opinions, and then whether to adopt the resulting amended opinions. The JURI committee can only adopt or reject its rapporteur’s draft opinion, which is positive about ACTA, see FFII letter. Next week, Tuesday 5 June, the Development committee (DEVE) will vote on its rapporteur’s opinion, which is very positive about ACTA, see also FFII letter. The DEVE amendments can only change the conclusion, recommending adoption or rejection of ACTA.

See also EDRi: From talk to action – EP Committees to vote on ACTA next week and La Quadrature du Net: Action Required on Crucial ACTA Votes Next Week.

For more on extraterritorial privatized enforcement, see EDRi’s excellent speech to the EU Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee Hearing on ACTA 16 May, 2012 (pdf).