April 18th, 2012
“Cannot guarantee adequate protection for citizens’ rights”
(SteveWatson) – A member of the European parliamnent who was appointed to oversee a controversial global internet treaty has called for the legislation to be scrapped, just weeks after his predecessor quit the post in disgust.
MEP David Martin denounced the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), saying that “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.” Martin added.
Martin was appointed to the position of EU rapporteur for ACTA in February. In the role he was responsible for investigating the pending legislation and presenting it to Parliament.
He took the position following the resignation of MEP Kader Arif, who concluded that the treaty was a monstrous disaster for privacy and human rights, and that the secretive nature in which it had been drafted by industry lobbyists and government hands was wholly corrupt.
Advising that the EU reject the treaty, Arif said, “I condemn the whole process which led to the signature of this agreement: no consultation of the civil society, lack of transparency since the beginning of negotiations, repeated delays of the signature of the text without any explanation given, reject of Parliament’s recommendations as given in several resolutions of our assembly.”
“Everyone knows the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether it is its impact on civil liberties, the way it makes Internet access providers liable (our emphasis), its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little protection it gives to our geographical indications,” he said.
“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.”
ACTA would allow companies in China or any other country in the world to demand ISPs remove web content in the US and Europe with no legal oversight whatsoever.
Under the provisions of ACTA, copyright holders will be granted sweeping direct powers to demand ISPs remove material from the Internet on a whim. Whereas ISPs normally are only forced to remove content after a court order, all legal oversight will be abolished, a precedent that will apply globally, rendering the treaty worse in its potential scope for abuse than other internet control legislation such as CISPA, SOPA or PIPA.
The groups pushing the treaty also want to empower copyright holders with the ability to demand that users who violate intellectual property rights (with no legal process) have their Internet connections terminated, a punishment that could only ever be properly enforced by the creation of an individual Internet ID card for every web user, a system that is already in the works.
“The same industry rightsholder groups that support the creation of ACTA have also called for mandatory network-level filtering by Internet Service Providers and for Internet Service Providers to terminate citizens’ Internet connection on repeat allegation of copyright infringement (the “Three Strikes” /Graduated Response) so there is reason to believe that ACTA will seek to increase intermediary liability and require these things of Internet Service Providers,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation has noted.
To date, 22 EU member states have signed the agreement, but it has not been retified by the parliament. In October last year, President Obama bypassed the Senate, as he generally does these days, and signed the US onto ACTA.
The legislation is currently the subject of a White House petition demanding Senators be forced to ratify the treaty. The White House has circumvented the necessity to have the treaty confirmed by lawmakers by presenting it an as “executive agreement,” although legal scholars have highlighted the dubious nature of this characterization.
The full text of ACTA can be found here.