European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht launched into an attack on the European Parliament tonight, following plenary debate on ACTA (Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement). He accused MEPs of wanting to protect ‘nebulous liberties' and failing to consider the millions of jobs that rely on IPR.
De Gucht's remarks came at the end of a debate where several MEPs repeated their concerns about ACTA, namely the secrecy of the negotiations, possible implications for fundamental rights of all European citizens, and possible extension of the EU acquis communitaire.
De Gucht challenged MEPs to provide examples, claimed that DG Trade was being transparent in connection with ACTA, and asserted that ACT is ‘about tackling large-scale illegal activity, and not about infringing civil liberties or hassling consumers'.
His remarks signalthe ongoing tension between the Parliament, which wants to assert its power, and the Commission, which is trying to maintain the upper hand.
The debate had begun with a more controlled address by De Gucht in which he set out DG Trade's position on the so-called "final" version of the ACTA.
In terms of facts and insights into the real position as it stands, here is what De Gucht said:
On the EU's position
The EU has obtained agreement for the inclusion in ACTA of GI s - geographic indicators - which act like a trade mark for a product. It typically affects European food products. Most famous examples are Parma ham or Champagne, but there are also lesser known ones such as Melton Mowbray pork pies.
The EU is pushing for the inclusion of trade marks in the Internet section.
In terms of the negotiations
It has not been possibile to finalise the content of ACTA in Tokyo. Outstanding issues are the inclusions of patents in respect of the civil and criminal enforcement provisions; and the abovementioned trade marks for Internet enforcement.
As an overall comment, De Gucht said that ACTA "defines an international standard for IP enforcement on the Internet".
It was very clear from De Gucht's statement that a key objective of ACTA is supporting the music and film industries and their demands for Internet copyright enforcement methods; and supporting the luxury good manufacturers who are attacking the Internet and eBay. That is why the EU is pushing for trade marks, to support luxury goods firm LVMH, cosmetics firm L'Oreal and others like them.
De Gucht's insistence on trade marks illustrates how the Commission is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of EU citizens. Whilst it is correct that ‘copyright' would form part of the EU aquis for IPR enforcement on the Internet, under the Telecoms Package - which is now officially part of the EU framework for IPR enforcement, as confirmed in a European Commission press release on ACTA also issued today** - trade marks do not form part of that same aquis in respect of Internet measures.
In trying to get trade marks into the ACTA, the Commission is trying impose a law on Europe bypassing the Parliament.
De Gucht skated over requests for an impact assessment of ACTA in terms of fundamental rights, at the same time as he discussed a ‘principle of co-operation with rights-holders' which he claimed is already in the E-commerce directive. On this last point, he made an incorrect reference, stating Article 15, no obligation to monitor, which does not mean any such co-operation for copyright enforcement under any interpretation that I have seen.
Some of his words however, will have been carefully chosen. Consider for example, ‘ACTA is about tackling large-scale illegal activity'. P2P by any other name!
**In my research since 2008, I have consistently argued that the Telecoms Package is about copyright enforcement. I note that with this press statement, the Commission has finally admitted publicly that this is a correct interpretation.
Correction: The error in the spelling of Commissioner De Gucht's name has been corrected and thank to the reader who alerted me!
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ 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 (2009) ACTA: De Gucht attacks European Parliament, http://www.iptegrity.com 20 October 2010