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The Commissioner-designate for the Internal Market, Michel Barnier, has admitted that ACTA (Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement)  is on his agenda. This would appear to be the first time that the EU has officially admitted to negotiating on the ACTA,  which will have serious implications for the Internet.  And Barnier  has set  a new EU priority policy goal:  the 'eradication of online piracy'. 


In his opening statement to the European Parliament, he outlined his priorities. The second priority was to promote creation and innovation, and the protection of the rights of creators. In his view, it is necessary to adapt the rules for the electronic world. He said that 'la creation' is being weakened by counterfeiting and piracy, and he wants to eradicate it and will support the Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy which was set up under his predecessor.


I think the only way to read this is  that he will support graduated response and other measures against downloading and P2P, and measures against eBay.


***ACTA: Following a question on counterfeiting and piracy from Italian MEP Salvini, Michel Barnier admitted

that he and the new Trade Commissioner, Karel de Grucht, will be negotiating with the US on the ACTA (Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement). This is, I think, the first public admission by the EU that it is negotiating on ACTA. Following a further question asking what action he would take to support creators, he cited the ACTA negotiations as an important step. He said it would put Europe on the same level as al regions of the world. 


He said " of course there is freedom of information, but there is also freedom of creation... it is necessary to balance that freedom of information with the right of artists to earn money". He said he would work with Commissioner Reding (Justice and Fundamental Rights). He said it was important to inform the public, but also to change the legislative framework.  I think I understood him correctly - and if I did, this is a significant statement, because until now, my understanding is that the official line on  ACTA is it not about changing the law.  


ACTA is being negotiated secretly, and is being positioned as a 'trade agreement'. It is known to have an entire Chapter dealing with Internet and IPR enforcement,  which will impose liabilities onto the network providers and web host companies.


Mr Barnier's response raises a serious question now for the European Parliament. It has been asking to have sight of the ACTA and been refused until now. If there are legislative consequences, as Mr Barnier has indicated, then the Parliament should see it before any deal is signed. ACTA will almost certainly contravene the Telecoms Package compromise agreed on November 4th last year. 


Michel Barnier was being questioned by the European Parliament, which has the right to reject him for the role of Commissioner. The Chair of the panel is Malcolm Harbour, who has in the past spoken at conferences of Barnier's predecessor regarding that Observatory (see above). It was blatantly obvious that the two questions on this topic both came from the perspective of the rights-holders, and the creative industries, rather than the Internet industries or users, and I do wonder how much discretion was exercised by the Chair. 

*** Michel Barnier's interview is available online  ***


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2010)ACTA is  now officially on EU agenda 13  May 2009. 




Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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