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The  European Commission  is piling on pressure for ACTA (Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement), and is  quietly preparing a legal  proposal for the  EU  to sign  it. The news comes in the context of ongoing discussion in the European Parliament on the question of whether to obtain a legal opinion on ACTA's compatibility with the Treaties.


In its recent Communication on IPR Enforcement, the Commission  suggests it is  a fait accompli that the EU will sign ACTA in 2011.  Indeed that all of the countries involved in the negotiation will sign.

However it seems the signature is just the first step. The next and possibly more important step is ratifcation. On this point, the Commission  says that the

EU should be in a position to ratify ACTA, once it has been signed by all of the contracting parties.


It then reveals that the Commission proposes to table a decision to sign the agreement in the  coming weeks.  In EU parlance, a ‘decision' has legal force and can be imposed on the Member States: 


The EU should also be in a position to ratify the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) once it has been signed by the contracting parties in the course of 2011. ACTA,   which is fully in line with the EU acquis, is an important step in improving the international  fight against IPR infringements, in cooperation with countries sharing the same concerns and  views. The Commission will table its proposal for an EU decision to sign the agreement in the  coming weeks.


 However, it should be noted that that part of the Commission pushing for this is not DG Trade which negotiated ACTA, but the group responsible for copyright in DG Markt. Within this group, the head of copyright is the ex-IFPI  Maria Martin-Prat. In this context, one does have to question the motivation for the rush.


The Commission states that ACTA  is fully in line with the EU acquis . Its also notable that the Commission tries to downplay the implications of  ACTA, saying that it just an extension of   the TRIPS agrement. Whilst ACTA does take a lot of language from TRIPS, it is important to note that the context is quite different. When TRIPS was negotiated the Internet was not a mass communications system. The problems addressed were on a different scale, and so were the possible implications of the measures taken.


Meanwhile, the European Parliament continues to ponder whether it should get a legal opinion on ACTA from the European Court of Justice.  This is not a trivial decision and  the Parliament  is rightly taking its time.  The Green group has suggested the move and the Socialists are understood to be supportive. Now it  has just emerged that the EPP group would like to get the Parliament's own legal services to give an opinion.   That reflects a positive desire by the Parliament to take a reasoned decision, and could be a step towards  an ECJ referral.


If the European Parliament wants to obtain legal opinion on ACTA, it should be able to do so without the Commission's not-unbiased proposals bearing down on it.


The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2011) EU Commission says sign ACTA - Parliament not so sure 24  May 2011 .  

 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.






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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

Don't miss Iptegrity!  RSS/ Bookmark is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is a policy analyst specialising in Internet governance & European policy, including platform accountability. She is a published author & Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet Freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and the Caucasus. In a voluntary capacity, she has led UK citizen delegations to the European Parliament. She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012.

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