ACTA Future Remains Uncertain on Lead-Up to EU Committee Vote

We’ve been following the ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) very closely for years. We continue our coverage with some of the things that ACTA supporters have done to keep the agreement alive in Europe and the continued push by Europeans to keep the agreement from passing.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

A few days ago, we reported on news that ACTA could be a tight vote in a key committee in the lead-up to the general vote in the European parliament. ACTA proponent, the MPA (Motion Picture Association), urged Europe not to reject the agreement because of what the organization calls false arguments. Earlier, Europeans and many more from around the world took part in a worldwide demonstration against the agreement. I’d argue, that’s just one of many signs that it’s been a battle between multinational corporations and the people.

All eyes are currently on Europe because if ACTA goes down in flames like many predict, that could put into question whether or not the agreement can be implemented in very many other countries as well. Some have even gone as far as to say that if ACTA falls in Europe, then that could even put into question whether or not the even more draconian Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement can be implemented as well. Of course, we should go one step at a time here and see if Europe actually rejects the agreement first.

Recently, Techdirt pointed to a tweet by MEP Marietje Schaake who said, “ACTA‬ on brink as MEPs orepare for key vote’ also rumor has it there will be a request for a secret ballot”

Meanwhile, ITNews reports on a Freedom of Information e-mail exchange where an impact statement on ACTA was internally rejected:

Government agencies dismissed the need for a formal statement regarding the impact of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on local regulation in 2010, new documents released under Freedom of Information reveal.

The documents (pdf) — an email chain between the Department of Finance and Deregulation, and ACTA negotiators at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade — show Finance believed a regulation impact statement was not required as the treaty’s “business” impact in Australia was “likely to be minor”.

A formal statement is required as part of the Federal Government’s consideration of whether to formally become a part of the treaty.

However, a consideration of whether such a statement was needed appeared to ignore the broader impact of community and non-profit organisation concerns, as required in a best practice guide governing the statements.

“In general terms, the more the proposed regulation impacts on business operations, and the greater the number of businesses or not-for-profit organisations that will be affected, the more likely it is that a RIS will be required,” the guide states.

The disclosed documents suggest neither DFAT nor OBPR addressed “not-for-profit organisations”.

Over at eGov Monitor, there’s a report that shows how European citizens are being kept in the debate:

Five complaints calling on MEPs to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), one supported by over 2.8 million people from all over the world, were discussed by the European Parliament Committee on Petitions on Tuesday. MEPs decided to keep the complaints open and await the outcome of the final votes in the International Trade Committee and Parliament as a whole, in plenary session.

By keeping the petitions open, citizens will continue to have a clear means to appeal “if they feel that ACTA does not meet their desires”, commented Petitions Committee Chair Erminia Mazzoni (EPP, IT), after the discussion.

Finally, NewEurope notes that the outcome of the upcoming committee vote is still uncertain:

Even though four committees have given negative opinions on ACTA, the vote by the trade committee still remains uncertain. The European People’s Party Group and the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) are proposing rival amendments to try to keep ACTA alive. The Parliament has felt pressure from many pro-ACTA groups to wait to vote until the European Court of Justice announces its legal opinion on the issue. ECR shadow rapporteur Syed Kammall said he agrees that the Parliament should wait for the court’s decision.

That last report is certainly consistent with the other reports we’ve been seeing so far.

I think Europeans have been doing a great job in making sure their voices are heard on this matter. They didn’t really ask for this kind of fight nor did they deserve to be put in a position that forces them to fight this hard to maintain their basic fundamental rights in an Internet age. Unfortunately, they are where they are now. I hope that ACTA is defeated because it can send a message that laws negotiated, created and solidified in secret is not how democracy works. The vote is expected sometime tomorrow.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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