It took a jump to the left in recommending a ‘no’ vote, now it’s taking a step to the right in postponing the Legal Affairs  committee vote  - with suspected intent to delay. How should we read the latest twists and turns in the European Parliament as it tries to figure out a consensus on ACTA?

 The Legal Affairs committee decided this week to postpone the vote on its ACTA opinion. It was 15 to 9  in favour of postponement. The reason given by the rapporteur – rights-holders sweetheart and Sarkozy-ite Marielle Gallo – was that she needs to incorporate the opinion of the Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS).

 The EDPS Opinion, released earlier this week criticises ACTA in light of the measures that it foreshadows. The EDPS, who comments only on ACTA’s Internet chapter, expresses concerns regarding copyright enforcement measures and users’ privacy. He says that ACTA is imprecise,  and lacks safeguards for Internet users – safeguards which are currently in EU law.

It does seem odd That Mme Gallo would insist on revising her opinion to take account of the EDPS, since she has not previously expressed any concerns regarding privacy and copyright enforcement.

 What could be going on is an attempt to manoeuvre the Parliament into delaying the final ACTA vote, to give the rights-holder lobby more time to gather support. There may also be a view that if the vote is delayed, public opinion will move onto something else and those MEPs who are swinging votes will be persuaded that it’s ok to support ACTA. The French citizens’ advocacy group, La Quadrature du Net has suggested that this could be the  case.

Or it could just be that the Parliament as a whole does need more time to make up its mind.

 It is certainly clear that the European Parliament is a long way from a consensus. The recommendation by the  rapporteur, the Socialist David Martin, to reject ACTA was just that – a recommendation.It does not imply a final decision.

 The right of Parliament, where Mme Gallo is  a leading light on  copyright issues, is getting ready to swing in to the ACTA debate. Mme Gallo will  be cracking the whip for the rights-holders behind the scenes.

 However, she may not get it all her own way. Hot on the heels of the EDPS, two other EPP members who do not necessarily share Mme Gallo’s  views held a press conference. Christofer Fjellner and Daniel Caspary said that the Internet chapter lacks clarity. They said that Internet service providers should not police the web, and called on the European Commission to clarify the role of ISPS, and the definition of ‘commercial scale infringement’.

 That Mr Fjellner and  Mr Caspary have come out publicly with a position may indicate that the EPP does not have a solid position on ACTA, and  that there are fissures internally.

 Whilst their statements are not radical in the wider ACTA debate, they will be viewed contentiously within the context of the EPP, which traditionally supports the copyright lobbies.   There may well  be sufficient support within the EPP for an opposing position, for them to have come out, with the backing of the group.

You may re-publish my article under a Creative Commons licence, but you should cite my name and provide a link back to Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten, ACTA: EU Parliament takes a step to the right, 27 April  2012 . Commercial users - please contact me