Monday 25 June 2012, 11:44 | By

Trade groups criticise European committee’s rejection of ACTA

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European Union

A plethora of trade bodies and unions representing the content industries have hit out at last week’s recommendation by the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee that MEPs vote against the sometimes controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement next month.

In a joint statement, the creative industry bodies say that members of the European Parliament should wait for the opinion of the European Courts Of Justice regards whether or not the global intellectual property treaty breaches fundamental EU rights before making a final decision on the agreement.

As previously reported, years in the making, ACTA has had its critics from the start because of the secrecy that surrounded its drafting, though public opposition has only really begun since the treaty was signed by various countries around the world late last year and earlier this year, partly fuelled by the big campaigns that occurred in the US against new anti-piracy laws there back in January.

Although most EU member states and in theory the EU have already signed up to the agreement, those which have not are now having second thoughts, and the European Parliament, which is yet to vote on the EU’s backing of the treaty, is now expected to vote against it too, especially after last week’s Trade Committee statement.

Opponents say that the agreement will enable countries to sneak draconian new copyright laws in through the back door, citing international obligations. But ACTA supporters in Europe insist the agreement merely brings other countries inline with IP rules that pretty much already exist under European law.

Responding to last week’s Trade Committee report, the consortium of content industry organisations, including the International Federation Of The Recording Industry, said: “The recommendation by the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee that the Parliament should reject ACTA is a disappointment to Europe’s creative, innovative and manufacturing sectors, which employ over 120 million people across Europe and depend on intellectual property to support and grow their businesses”.

It continued: “More than 130 organisations representing the breadth of European industry have urged the European Parliament to wait for the opinion of the Court Of Justice of the European Union before taking a final decision on the treaty. A vote to follow the INTA recommendation and to reject ACTA now would be to ignore the voices of industry, unions, employees, the Commission, the Council and Member States. ACTA should be given careful and responsible consideration before a decision that will have significant effects on the EU’s trade relationships and economy”.

Among the trade body leaders quoted in the statement was Johannes Studinger of trade union grouping UNI MEI, who said: “The majority of jobs in our knowledge-based societies rely on intellectual property. Counterfeiting and piracy, including on the internet, are creating a global black market threatening the economic basis of real jobs in the creative industries. It’s a global problem that needs a global response. We need a tool like ACTA to improve international cooperation in IP protection”.

Of course some welcomed last week’s Trade Committee announcement, with Peter Bradwell of British campaigning organisation the Open Rights Group telling The Guardian: “MEPs have listened to the many, many thousands of people across Europe who have consistently demanded that this flawed treaty is kicked out. This is the fifth consecutive committee to say ACTA should be rejected. It now falls to the vote of the whole European Parliament in July to slam the door on ACTA once and for all, and bring this sorry mess to an end”.

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