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ACTA Rapporteur Says He'll Recommend Against the Treaty

BY Antonella Napolitano | Tuesday, April 17 2012

MEP David Martin during a debate on ACTA. Photo by European Parliament

A European lawmaker responsible for providing guidance to European Parliament on the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement will recommend against ratifying the treaty, he announced April 12.

British MEP David Martin, the rapporteur for ACTA, announced that he will recommend the rejection of the treaty in a final report to the International Trade Committee, the main parliamentary committee involved in the ACTA debate, he will submit later this month.

His words came at the end of a meeting on ACTA organized by the Socialist & Democrats group in the European Parliament. 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.

On the website of the European Parliament, a draft of Martin's final recommendation reads:

Unintended consequences of the ACTA text is a serious concern. On individual
criminalisation, the definition of “commercial-scale”, the role of internet service providers and the possible interruption of the transit of generic medicines, your rapporteur maintains doubts that the ACTA text is as precise as is necessary.

The intended benefits of this international agreement are far outweighed by the potential threats to civil liberties. Given the vagueness of certain aspects of the text and the uncertainty over its interpretation, the European Parliament cannot guarantee adequate protection for citizens' rights in the future under ACTA.

In February, two street protests against ACTA gathered thousands of people in more than 200 European cities. Another European protest day against ACTA is planned for June 9, close to the likely date of a parliamentary vote on the treaty.

ACTA's fate is unclear as some political groups in the Parliament have yet to declare their stance on the treaty.

Martin was appointed in February after the resignation of Kader Arif, the French MEP that was first selected as rapporteur for the treaty. Like Martin, Karif is part of the Socialist & Democrats group in the European Parliament.

In February, French NGO La Quadrature du Net, one the most visible in the campaign against ACTA, did not welcome Martin’s appointment, pointing to his voting record in the Parliament on copyright enforcement issues.

So far, the ACTA debate has represented a unique case study of the role that the European Parliament can have on EU issues that have impact on citizens’ everyday life, a role that had little consideration so far. ACTA would set international standards for how signatory nations handle a wide variety of intellectual property violations ranging from counterfeit pharmaceuticals to online copyright infringement, possibly requiring changes in law for some countries but not in others. In the U.S., President Barack Obama's administration has said it believes the treaty, which has been signed by administration representatives, would not require any change in law.

“I am pleased that the European Parliament can properly use the power that we’ve been given under the Lisbon Treaty to consider the concerns of our citizens and come to a coherent and considered conclusion.” wrote Martin on his blog.

According to Martin, those concerns are many. Trade committee members have been involved in meetings and hearings with citizens and civil society organizations since the beginning of March; in a seminar held last Friday in Edinburgh, the rapporteur declared that he has been receiving 500 anti-ACTA emails a day since the protests began.