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EU publishes 10 Myths about ACTA

The document asserts that negotiations were not secret, that ACTA will require no changes to EU law, that it preserves existing safeguards, does not threaten trade in generic medicines and does not impose a ‘3 strikes’ system for internet infringements. But these assertions are widely challenged.

A report in the Guardian newspaper shows that Kader Arif, the French MEP who lead the ACTA negotiations and resigned in protest at its signature, remains highly critical and contradicts the 10 myths document. “He said that it now threatens online freedom, access to the use of generic versions of drugs for treating illnesses, and could potentially mean that someone crossing a border who has a single song or film on their computer could face criminal charges,” says the Guardian.

James Firth, the CEO at the Open Digital Policy Organization, has similar concerns. Attempts to criminalize actions traditionally dealt with in the civil courts in the UK, he told Infosecurity, “opens up the strong possibility that a simple misunderstanding, for example in relation to a work which has entered the public domain in one country but not in another, will result in a criminal conviction and even a prison sentence.” 

He gave us a specific example. “A researcher working in a commercial environment,” he said, “importing the text of Orwell's classic Nineteen Eighty Four from Australia (where it is in the public domain) to Europe (where it is not until 2020) faces the same criminal sanctions as a trader flogging knock-off copies of The King's Speech.”

The European Digital Rights organization (EDRi) has its own concerns. It points out in its latest newsletter that there is currently “an intensive lobby-campaign meant for the European Parliament. In three documents, DG TRADE tries to convince the European Parliamentarians that ACTA is simply misunderstood...” But EDRi retains deep concerns, not least that it will change the current view that ISPs are primarily carriers (like postal delivery services) not ultimately responsible for content. ACTA asserts “that limitations on liability of Internet service providers can only be permitted if the interests of rightsholders are first taken into account.”

Although the lobbyists suggest that ACTA will not limit civil liberties, “they fail to explain,” writes EDRi, “how prioritising repressive measures aimed for copyright protection over fundamental rights such as the right to privacy or freedom of communication without guarantees of due process and equality of arms will not have any limitation effects on fundamental rights.”

“I understand why the EU felt the need to address criticism of ACTA,” Firth told us. “We know the agreement is not as bad as many critics argue, but it's not great either... As it stands the treaty can't now be modified; the EU and member states are faced with a simple choice - sign or not sign.”

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