In an announcement on Thursday following a conference organized by the Socialist group (PES), David Martin declared, “Today's conference has confirmed my suspicion that ACTA raises more fears than hopes. What it delivers in terms of important intellectual property rights is diminished by potential threats to civil liberties and internet freedom. When the European Parliament rejects ACTA...” He hasn’t yet put this announcement into a formal document to parliament, but his opinion as the ACTA rapporteur seems clear.
It came on the same day as the president of PES, Sergei Stanishev, said “The attempt to tackle infringement of intellectual property rights on the internet was done in a very short sighted way. This is a serious subject that needs to be dealt with, however ACTA is not the right place, ACTA is not the right tool and this is not the right way to deal with this issue.”
What isn’t yet clear is whether Martin’s position as rapporteur will be taken more seriously than his position within the socialist group, or whether the actual vote will follow party lines. Centre-right parties have more votes than the PES. Nevertheless, the future of ACTA is seriously threatened by Martin’s position.
So threatened that although Stanishev dismissed ACTA as unwanted because it infringed so clearly on basic freedoms of individuals and unneeded because there were already sufficient protections against international counterfeiting, he also suggested that a leaked ‘non-paper’ from the G8 would indicate that high-level decision makers had already conceded that ACTA was dead – and are making alternative plans. The paper in question has been made available by EDRI, the European Digital Rights organization.
In an article also published on Thursday, EDRI notes that the leaked document seems to have been prepared in the context of law enforcement working groups and seems to address some of the criticisms of ACTA. “Unfortunately,” it adds, “the lessons have not been completely learned. The Internet section, while avoiding the issue of policing of digital copying, is partially copied and pasted from the White House annual report on IPR Enforcement.” EDRI believes that this new document is even more ‘dangerous’ than ACTA in that it contains “an explicit expression of what many law-makers fail to see is implicit in ACTA – that global, almost entirely US-based companies, would be responsible for online policing - including being judge, jury and executioner wherever they see fit.”