The Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that was discussed this week in a secret meeting in Switzerland,  threatens fundamental principles of European telecoms law, in particular the  ‘mere conduit' provision, according to Europe's leading telecommunications companies. It's an ‘outside-in' change to EU law by international treaty, they say.


An alliance of European telecoms groups has taken an unusually strong  stand against ACTA. The alliance is  led by the economically powerful ETNO, whose members include Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom and BT, and ETNO is joined by  European associations of ISPs, mobile operators, e-commerce and Internet companies, and cable companies.


In a joint statement, they   say  that ACTA  could jeopardise key provisions in the acquis communitaire  including the important mere conduit principle which underpins the Internet in Europe. They advise  that ACTA contains a series of provisions which contradict the EU acquis, and which would also hinder

the development of new online services and contradict the objectives for the European Digital Agenda.


The European telecoms and technology companies  are concerned that EU law will be changed by an  ‘outside-in' manoeuvre of  non-elected administrators, without proper democratic scrutiny. These legal changes will have profound and detrimental effects on their businesses.


The joint statement calls   for the European Parliament to have more than just transparency. They want to see the Parliament have  full  democratic oversight of new legislation by until the ACTA negotiations are complete.  


The  telecoms companies say that the draft liability provisions  in the ACTA Internet chapter are in contradiction with the E-Commerce Directive. ACTA places policy goals for copyright and IPR ahead of the ‘mere conduit' principle. In this way, ‘mere conduit' could be eroded, and ACTA  stands to undermine  the functioning of the Information Society (which is EU jargon for the Internet).


The telcos also assert that  criminal sanctions provisions in ACTA  go beyond the existing EU legal framework, and that privacy of EU citizens is put at risk


Read the full statement on ACTA from ETNO, Euro-ISPA, GSM Association, EDIMA, and Cable Europe.


It's interesting to compare the  telco comments with the answers received by a civil society group which met with the ACTA negotiators this week. The negotiators continue to deny that there will be any effect on either the EU aquis or fundamental rights.


ACTA talks concluded Thursda y  -next meeting in US  - no date or location


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)  Europe's telcos  oppose 'outside - in' ACTA threat 2  July  2010