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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