The European Parliament has today established its position on the EU-US Trade agreement. In the post-ACTA environment, its stance on copyright is waivering, as is the issue of transparency in the negotiations. But, unlike ACTA, TTIP is a broadly-scoped agreement, and the copyright industries are the subject of a quite different controversy – the so-called cultural exception. Moreover, another telecoms issue appears to have been entirely ignored.
The EU-US TRade Agreement has unfortunately been christened TTIP – suggesting many a journalistic pun to come. Negotiations between the USTR and the EU are expected to begin at the next G8 talks, that will be hosted by the UK and held in Northern Ireland in July.
The Parliament today adopted a non-legislative Resolution in a plenary vote. The Resolution expresses a formal opinion on behalf of the Parliament, but has no other function in the EU political process. The Commission’s mandate will be endorcsed by the Council of Ministers.
However, the Resolution is a document that will be held out by other stakeholders where it is favourable to their position and used in various ways to underpin lobbying campaigns. That is its practical importance.
The Resolution does make a positive statement regarding the controversial protection of the cultural indstries. It seeks to keep cultural and audiovisual services out of the TTIP, including online services. This is usually taken to mean the issue of quotas for European content on mainstream broadcasting. However, the including of ‘online’ in the wording, does leave it open to interpretation. If audiovisual services are left out, then that one interpretation is arguably that it should also exclude enforcement of audiovisual online copyright:
Considers it essential for the EU and its Member States to maintain the possibility of preserving and developing their cultural and audiovisual policies, and to do so in the context of their existing laws, standards and agreements; calls, therefore, for the exclusion of cultural and audiovisual services, including those provided online, to be clearly stated in the negotiating mandate;
This is no doubt the result of lobbying pressure by European cultural industries, and they can go away comforted with the thought that their cause has won political support.
The worrying aspect is that European Parliament did not have the courage to take a positive stand on copyright and IPR, and made this very woolly statement: .
Stresses that intellectual property is one of the driving forces of innovation and creation and a pillar of the knowledge-based economy, and that the agreement should include strong protection of precisely and clearly defined areas of intellectual property rights (IPRs), including geographical indications, and should be consistent with existing international agreements; believes that other areas of divergence relating to IPRs should be resolved in line with international standards of protection
There are views circulating that this is another attempt at an ACTA. I’m not so sure. ACTA clearly set out to target Internet downloading and was was intended to set a ‘gold standard’ for global IPR enforcement. I suspect the TTIP will faciliate an attempt at some kind of rapprochement of EU and US copyright enforcement law, but anything more ambitious on IPR, such as new measures for intermediaries, would be politically foolish.
The TTIP language does mimick ACTA’s vagueness. For example, ‘precisely and clearly defined areas of intellectual property rights’ - what does this mean? What are ‘areas of rights’? And what are ‘international standards of protection’? I do not know of any other ‘international standards’ for copyright enforcement, which usually goes via the civil courts.
The European Parliament Resolution on TTIP has also introduced a new concept of ‘fundamental rights standards’ – once again, a right is a positive thing, I have never heard of a ‘rights standard':
Considers that the agreement should guarantee full respect for EU fundamental rights standards; reiterates its support for a high level of protection of personal data, which should benefit consumers on both sides of the Atlantic; considers that the agreement should take account of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) provisions on the protection of personal data
On transparency, the Parliament has clearly back-tracked. Where we would expect it to call for full transparency in the negotiations, it only calls for ‘engagement’, which can mean interpreted very broadly.
Recalls the need for proactive outreach and continuous and transparent engagement by the Commission with a wide range of stakeholders, including business, environmental, agricultural, consumer, labour and other representatives, throughout the negotiation process, in order to ensure fact-based discussions, build trust in the negotiations, obtain proportionate input from various sides, and foster public support by taking stakeholders’ concerns into consideration; encourages all stakeholders to actively participate and to put forward initiatives and information relevant to the negotiations;
This statement is probably intended to pacify industry, who did complain about not being briefed on ACTA (see my forthcoming book A Copyright Masquerade) . It gives the Commission a get-out for not informing the public or revealing negotiating texts:
Something that has been completely left out is the issue of access to telecoms networks. European business users have complained that whilst American network operators are free to set up business in Europe, their European counterparts have no similar access to set up telecoms services in the US. This is certainly an area where the EU should try to TTIP the balance. (Oh dear!).
For further comment see
La Quadrature du Net TAFTA: First Step Towards a Super-ACTA
This is an original article from Iptegrity.com and reflects research that I have carried out. If you refer to it or to its content, please cite my name as the author, and provide a link back to iptegrity.com. Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten, 2013, EU-US trade talks: Parliament TTIP-toes around IPR & culture in www.iptegrity.com 23 May 2013. Commercial users - please contact me.