October 3, 2010

When the Camembert tops democratic governance

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Berlin, Sept 15th 2010 — A European Parliament majority accepted a written declaration on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which iterates the calls to European Commissioner Karel de Gucht for more legislative transparency.

In a speech before the European Parliament Commissioner Karel De Gucht threatened the United States to leave negotiations when geographical indications would be “discriminated”, that is excluded from the scope of the negotiations on ACTA. Geographical indications cover, for instance, camembert de Normandie, parmesan cheese or champagne, and other marks of origin. The United States oppose their inclusion in ACTA. The United States also aim to keep the negotiated ACTA draft text confidential.

“The European Parliament still asks Commissioner de Gucht to disclose ACTA documents. It is their fourth official request. De Gucht threatenes to leave the negotiations for the Camembert’s sake, but not for openness. The Treaties and democracy deserve far more respect”, argues FFII Vice-President René Mages.

“ACTA is a way of removing legislative competences even further away from the control of any elected legislators. After the IPR lobbies have circumvented the nation states by means of the EU, now they are circumventing the EU”, adds FFII founder Hartmut Pilch.

Negotiating trade administrations defend their “forum shopping” through ACTA by the unwillingness of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). WTO members do not accept enforcement standards which go beyond the 1994 TRIPS agreement. Nations participating in the UN World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) find the current level of international enforcement laws sufficient and refuse to negotiate a counterfeiting treaty. WIPO administers several global copyright, patent and trademark treaties.

The current ACTA draft comprises chapters with civil and criminal sanctions against infringements of IPR, customs control and enforcement in the digital environment. The civil measures correspond to the EU IPR Enforcement directive, the criminal chapter corresponds to the pending criminal enforcement directive proposal (“IPRED2”) which lacks consensus among EU member states to be adopted in the Council. The ACTA draft includes penal sanctions on patent infringement which are explicitly excluded in the IPRED2 process. The Digital Chapter induces measures such as internet filtering which failed political acceptance during the European Telecom package debate.

René Mages stresses that ACTA’s scope remains completely unsaturated: “Consider Articles 5 and 6 of the latest leaks. A Politburo, the ACTA Committee, is free to amend the ACTA agreement. ACTA would create a parallel legislature without democratic controls.”