Big tech accountability? Read the backstory to today's policy debates here on Iptegrity.

Haddock, whiting, hake, Norwegian lobster.... What do these harmless marine creatures have to do with Internet copyright?

The EU Council of Ministers yesterday gave the go-ahead for the EU to sign the controversial Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). ACTA is effectively an international copyright treaty, paving the way for a range of Internet blocking measures against allegedly infringing material online. The green light was given - not by the Ministers responsible for copyright - but by those in charge of fishing fleets.

The decision for signing ACTA was deemed an 'A' point, meaning that it had been pre-agreed. It was therefore put to the next available meeting, which happened to be the Fisheries Council. At this Fisheries Council meeting, fishing quotas were the hotly disputed matter. The ACTA authorisation was slipped in unnoticed beneath the never-ending fight between the British and the Spanish over how much cod they can net.

The Council's press release was notably bland:

The Council adopted a decision authorising the signing of an anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) with Australia, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States.

But it also contained some fishy language, claiming that ACTA is only intended for " actions against large-scale infringements of intellectual property". Those words can be read two ways. To address a single infringer who has a large-scale operation. Or to address infringements which multiply on a large scale - namely the millions of small infringements, such as those allegedly taking place over file-sharing networks.

The Council decision document contained a get-out clause on criminal measures. The Council is not authorising the EU signatories to accede to the criminal measures in ACTA - that will be left to the Member States to individually sign.

This is not however, the end of the matter. The European Parliament must give its consent before ACTA can be signed by the EU. The Parliament's consent is still pending and not expected before March next year.

PS. I also noted that the Fisheries Council sneaked in the authorisation of four varieties of GM food ... hmmmmmm?

You are free to re-publish this article under a non-commercial Creative Commons licence, but you must attibute the author and put a link back to Academics - please cite this article as Monica Horten, EU Council gives fishy go-ahead for ACTA ,, 16 December 2011 . Commercial users - please contact the author.


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About Iptegrity is the website of Dr Monica Horten.

I am a tech policy specialist, published author, post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Currently working on UK Online Safety Bill.

Recent media quotes: BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian, Politico.  Panelist: IAPP,  CybersecuritySummit. Parliament and Internet. June 2022-July 2023 w/ Open Rights Group. is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.  

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