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
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 http://www.iptegrity.com 24 May 2011 .
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