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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?

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com 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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