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ACTA Hanging on a Camembert ?

Common Press Release Act Up-Paris, April and La Quadrature du Net

Paris, September 13th, 2010 – The representatives of Act Up-Paris, April and La Quadrature du Net met on September 10th with one of the French officials in charge of the ACTA negotiations. Strong concerns remain regarding the way this anti-Counterfeiting agreement is bypassing democratic processes. Whether it is access to medicines in poor countries, free communication on the Internet or the protection of Free software, the recent modifications to the text don't change anything to the dangerous nature of ACTA. Ironically, the hopes to see this illegitimate agreement rejected now depend on the ability of the European Union to defend its camembert, its parmesan and its champagne...

As negotiations seem to be coming to an end, our meeting at the French ministry for the Economy with Jean Philippe Müller1 strengthens our total opposition to this agreement, regarding both its substance and its form.

On the form of the agreement, it is alarming to see that article 5 and 6 –which are now finalized unlike most of the text– provide for the creation of an "ACTA committee" which will be competent for subsequent amendments to the agreement, subject to the approval of the parties. Such a procedure would amount to the creation of a parallel legislative process bypassing public opinion and democracy.

On the substance of ACTA, modifications to the text appear to be aimed at reassuring public opinion by deleting all mentions of patents in the "border measures" chapter2 and of the liability regime of Internet technical intermediaries3. But in practice, civil and criminal sanctions still establish a great legal uncertainty for Internet Service Providers and users as well as for manufacturers of generic medicines. Besides, authors and users of Free softwares are more than ever threatened by new provisions that would enshrine digital handcuffs.

Quite ironically, the fate of ACTA now seems to depend on the main point of disagreement between the US and the EU: the highly political question of the agreement's scope. Europe insists for geographical indications –Protected designation of origin which cover, for instance, camembert, parmesan or champagne– to be protected by ACTA, whereas the US categorically opposes their inclusion. Jean-Philippe Müller, echoing statements made by Commissioner De Gucht4, told us that if Europeans fail to obtain the inclusion of geographical indications in the agreement, they could leave the negotiating table.

In the end, it appears that Europe's defense of "Camembert de Normandie" might be the best way to protect our freedoms from being unjustly put at risk by this illegitimate agreement.

  • 1. From the Direction of the Treasury, in charge of ACTA along with Patrice Guyot
  • 2. Section 2
  • 3. Article 2.18
  • 4. "Another area where discussions are disappointing for EU interests relates to which intellectual property rights will be covered by the agreement. The EU has a wide and diversified basis of right-holders. A farmer producing products with geographical indications, or a textile company creating designs, are also victims of counterfeiting and also need to be covered by better enforcement rules. The problem is that several of our partners insist that only copyright and trademarks ‘deserve’ to be included in ACTA. We strongly disagree and will continue to firmly push for these offensive EU interests to be respected. [...] However, if at the end of the process the EU is faced with a Treaty without much concrete added value for our right holders, or with a Treaty trying to establish that there are 1st and 2nd category intellectual property rights, we should be ready to re-consider our participation in the agreement."
    See the minutes of his statement to the European Parliament : http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+CRE+20100908+ITEM-005+DOC+XML+V0//EN