EU Official Who Resigned Over ACTA Details Why ACTA Is Dangerous; While His Replacement Seems Unlikely To Care
from the not-good dept
Last month, we noted that, Kader Arif, the ACTA rapporteur — or the guy in charge of “investigating” ACTA for the EU Parliament — had resigned in disgust over the fact that the EU was moving forward with ACTA. He noted that he was denouncing both the process and the agreement itself. Arif recently gave an interview with the WSJ where he went into much more detail about the problems associated with ACTA. It’s really worth reading the whole thing because while defenders of ACTA (like defenders of SOPA before them) keep insisting that the complaints are based on misinformation, you can’t accuse the very guy Parliament had investigate the agreement of being a victim of misinformation. Here’s a snippet:
The problem with ACTA is that, unlike its title indicates, it is not only an agreement related to the fight against counterfeiting, but a much broader agreement meant to tackle all forms of violation of intellectual property rights, including on the internet. And here I am very much concerned because I (and many international experts) consider that the text of the agreement breaks this very fragile equilibrium between interests of right holders and protection of civil liberties. I would like to give two examples to illustrate this concern.
First is the article 11 of the agreement, which states that the right holder has the right to ask for information “regarding any person involved in any aspect of the infringement or alleged infringement”. This article is worded in such wide and unclear terms that it leaves a great deal of room for interpretation. In practice, almost anyone could be linked to an infringement of intellectual property rights and face criminal sanctions under such a vague definition. It is our responsibility as legislators and people’s representatives not to leave it to a judicial authority to decide of the scope of an agreement which could affect people’s civil liberties.
The second is the issue of having travelers’ personal luggage searched at borders. ACTA foresees that the use of counterfeited goods on a commercial scale can lead to criminal sanctions. But here again no definition of “commercial scale” is given. Article 14 of the agreement clearly states that, unless contrary action is taken by one of the parties, it is possible to search people’s personal luggage, including small consignments. So if a traveler has on his laptop or MP3 player a tune or movie downloaded illegally, could he face sanctions ? How many tunes or movies would one need to set up a commercial illegal activity? In theory one would be enough… The problem again here is that ACTA does not give any clear indication. Besides the fact that it is an extremely sensitive issue to authorize for the search of all travelers’ luggage, and personally I am totally opposed to it, I see here a great risk for abuse and unjustified sanctions.
Later, he explains how those backing ACTA, by saying that it won’t have any impact on EU laws, are being misleading. He says that if that’s true, then the document is useless. And if it’s not true, then it’s a threat to people’s rights:
So if ACTA does not create any new rights for this foreign company, what is the point of the agreement? Or is it that only our companies gain new rights for the action they want to take in partner countries, while the companies set in these partner countries do not gain anything? The argument of the Commission is that ACTA does not change anything for European citizens, but that it represents a huge progress for our companies operating abroad. This is not serious. Maybe, if China or India had been part of the agreement, we could have considered that ACTA was a way of exporting to these countries our legislation which is very protective of intellectual property rights. This could have been a real progress. But this is not the case, almost all ACTA parties are developed economies with well functioning judicial systems. The conclusion is simple: either ACTA is useless, or it is a threat.
Later in the interview he explains some of the reasons for his resignation, including the claim that some in Parliament more or less were trying to use some obscure procedures to force him into getting the document ratified in a very short period of time — a timeframe he describes as “surreal for such a controversial file.”
That point becomes even more important as information comes out about Arif’s replacement, David Martin, who appears to not have a very good track record on issues like this. This is unfortunate. Apparently a few other Parliament Members who were in line for the job, but who had already taken stands against ACTA, turned it down. So, it may have fallen to someone who will say it’s fine.