MEP Appointed To Scrutinise ACTA Resigns In Disgust

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A key MEP protests the ACTA copyright treaty which could become European law in June

In the week the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was signed by Europe, a European MP working on the treaty has resigned in protest at the way it has been forced through.

ACTA,  an international treaty designed to curb breaches of intellectual property rights, has been signed by the European Union, but will not come into force until a vote in the European Parliament in June. Objectors are staging fierce protests in countries including Poland and Ireland, and now Kader Arif, the person  appointed to review it, has described the ACTA process as a “masquerade”.

Manoeuvres from the right wing

ACTA is intended to bring the world’s different intellectual property rights regimes into line. Critics have argued that in the process it expands the powers of copyright owners and criminalises ordinary activity, although some of its more controversial powers have been removed during the last year.

The European Union has signed the treaty, along with 22 of its member states, including the UK. However, the treaty will not become law until it is voted on by the European Parliament in June, and it must first be approved by the EU’s International Trade Committee (INTA). “Regardless of the signatures that took place on Thursday, ACTA will not become EU law if the European Parliament votes against it in June,” reports David Meyer on ZDNet.

The resignation of French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Kader Arif is a set-back for ACTA. A member of INTA, Arif was given the job of “rapporteur” to report on the process by which ACTA was handled in Europe. Yesterday, he filed his report and resigned in disgust at the hasty and secretive manner by which it was pushed through.

”I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement,” said Arif, complaining that civil society organisations were ignored, and even the European Parliament was not given time to discuss it properly.

Kader criticised “never-before-seen manoeuvres from the right wing of this Parliament to impose a rushed calendar before public opinion could be alerted”. ACTA is problematic, he said, in the way it makes Internet access providers liable, and may breach privacy.

A troubled passage

The European Parliament adopted resolution in favour of ACTA in December 2010, shortly after the text of the Treaty was released. Protestors have argued that it interferes with human rights and punishes ordinary Internet users.

Those objecting to ACTA will be ramping up their activity, with a view to mobilising the same kind of public protests which forced the US Government to shelve the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA).

The full text of Arif’s resignation letter is posted on ACTA protest site La Quadrature du Net, along with the following English translation:

”I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, exclusion of the EU Parliament’s demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly.”

“As rapporteur of this text, I have faced never-before-seen manoeuvres from the right wing of this Parliament to impose a rushed calendar before public opinion could be alerted, thus depriving the Parliament of its right to expression and of the tools at its disposal to convey citizens’ legitimate demands.”

“Everyone knows the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether it is its impact on civil liberties, the way it makes Internet access providers liable, its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little protection it gives to our geographical indications.”

“This agreement might have major consequences on citizens’ lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade.”

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