Disappointment Over Anti-Counterfeiting Resolution

24 November 2010

SNP MEP Alyn Smith today hailed the passage of a European Parliament resolution on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) as a step in the right direction but expressed disappointment over its impact on basic freedoms and existing EU legislation.

The resolution, approved today (Wednesday) with 331 votes in favour, 294 against, and 11 abstentions, reiterates that the Lisbon Treaty extended Parliament's powers, and points out that its consent is needed for ACTA to enter into force in the EU.

The aim of the ACTA agreement, between the EU, the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland, is to strengthen the enforcement of intellectual property rights and to help to combat counterfeiting and piracy of goods such as clothing of luxury brands, music, and films.

MEPs, who now have the power to veto international agreements concluded by the EU, today stated that this agreement will not solve the complex and multi-dimensional problem of counterfeiting but it should still be considered a step in the right direction. MEPs nonetheless want reassurance from the Commission that ACTA’s implementation will have no impact on fundamental rights and data protection, on the ongoing EU efforts to harmonise intellectual property rights enforcement measures, or on e-commerce.

Alyn Smith said:

"This is a complicated issue with a number of promising pro’s but also with a few disappointing con’s.

"I was pleased to hear that neither personal searches nor the so-called "three strikes" procedure will be introduced by this agreement meaning that ordinary people will not be prosecuted for backing up their DVDs. It is the 21st Century - broadband use is increasing - and with the UN aiming to have half the world connected to the internet by 2015 it is welcome that ACTA membership is not exclusive and that additional developing and emerging countries may join.

"Disappointingly, ACTA ignores what it is designed to achieve. ACTA needs to see improvement in the area of copyright and patent enforcement and it ignores the concerns that have been consistently voiced by a number of experts and MEPs that ACTA could impair civil liberties and the access to information and medicines. While today was a positive step in the right direction, it also highlighted that a few loopholes need to be ironed out before I will be satisfied with the finished package."

Background

In Parliament's previous ACTA resolution, passed on 10 March 2010, MEPs called for the ongoing negotiations to be more transparent. Furthermore, they demanded that no personal searches should be conducted at EU borders and that the agreement should not introduce any kind of "three strikes" internet disconnection as a penalty for three online copyright infringements. In a written declaration signed by a majority of MEPs in September this year, Parliament also stressed that the agreement should not impose any harmonization of EU copyright, patent or trademark law nor weaken fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and the right to privacy. Furthermore, ACTA should not harm global access to legal, affordable and safe medicines, emphasized MEPs.