ACTA: Game Over?

Paris, September 24th 2010 - The Tokyo round of negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement has just begun. It could be the last one before the signature of the final agreement. The text, which is now close to completion, remains an alarming threat on fundamental freedoms online, and could lead to the generalization of anti-democratic legislation and governance.

The latest leaked text – dated August 25th1 – of ACTA still contains provisions calling for closer cooperation between Internet Service Providers and rights holders2, favored by legal and monetary pressure put on Internet technical intermediaries (access and service providers, ISPs)3.

These repressive and dangerous policies in ACTA are consistent with the position of EU institutions, who are also pushing for extra-legislative and extra-judicial measures to deal with online file sharing. According to the Commission, backed up by the Members of the European Parliament who voted in favor of the Gallo report, "Rights holders and other stakeholders should be encouraged to exploit the potential of collaborative approaches and to place more emphasis on joining forces to combat counterfeiting and piracy in the common interest, also taking advantage of possible alternatives to court proceedings for settling disputes"4.

"ACTA pushes for the creation of private copyright police and justice of the Net, in negation of the right to a fair trial. Such policies would inevitably affect both freedom of expression and privacy." declares Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson of the citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

Chapters 5 and 6 of ACTA, finalized unlike most of the text, create an "ACTA committee" which will play a key role in processing subsequent amendments to the agreement, subject to forms of approval by the parties that are defined in ambiguous terms. This procedure risks amounting to the creation of a parallel legislative process bypassing public opinion and democracy.

"ACTA is an experiment in the circumvention of democracy. Even if the most offensive provisions become less visible in the final text, ACTA must be rejected as such. If we tolerate it, we will create a precedent and Parliaments will be pressured to rubber stamp packages negotiated without democratic debate." concludes Zimmermann.