Clean up your ACTA, says Prendergast MEP

ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a misnomer with a wrongheaded approach. Targeting copyright infringements with the same enforcement tools used against fake goods is both inappropriate and dangerous to our liberties and innovation potential, stated Phil Prendergast Labour MEP for Munster in Strasbourg today.


Ms. Prendergast said “Our citizens have valid reasons for concern on many grounds. ACTA’s disproportionate focus on civil and criminal norms threatens consumer rights, fundamental freedoms and can chill innovation, as smaller companies and start-ups will be discouraged from taking risks in the digital and creative industries for fear of incurring unaffordable penalties.


“The European Parliament has, in the past, stopped the Commission’s attempts to introduce EU law to enforce criminal measures in the field of intellectual property rights. ACTA’s negotiation bypassed this and gives the EU’s elected representatives no say on the actual content of this treaty, which establishes a committee with the power to further amend it.


“What’s more, Parliament opposed the inclusion of personal, not-for-profit acts by private citizens in the scope of criminal enforcement of intellectual property rights, and ACTA’s nebulous definitions of “commercial scale” or “criminal liability for aiding and abetting” infringements, and the lack of safeguards on fair use of works in classroom teaching or research are extremely worrying.


“ACTA’s provisions on damage calculations in civil judicial disputes are also excessive and go beyond what is required under EU law.


 “Obligations on third parties such as Internet Service Providers to prevent infringements and international and private sector cooperation requirements raise extremely serious questions with regard to citizen’s rights to privacy, freedom of expression and access to knowledge. They open the door to pre-emptive, extra-judicial surveillance of online users and self-censorship.


“On the other hand, bungled provisions on border measures have the potential to hinder developing countries’ access to generic medicines and customers’ access to other products due to inappropriate product seizures.


“This treaty lacks tangible benefits for EU citizens. It bypasses multilateral bodies such as the World Trade Organisation or the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the proper legislative bodies where such measures should be openly decided.


“Many pieces of EU legislation in this field are or will be under review in the near future. I see no reason why we should tie our hands with this inappropriate, outdated and dangerous tool”


“This is why I have asked the Commission and the Council a number of specific questions and intend to table more in the weeks to come, in order to fully establish the potential impact of the treaty on Irish and EU citizens and business.”

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