ACTA and the European Commission: The great escape

Communiqué Act Up-Paris / April / La Quadrature du Net

Brussels, March 22nd, 2010 - Members of Act Up-Paris and La Quadrature du Net attended this morning a « stakeholders meeting » on ACTA hosted by the European Commission. Questions asked by the public faced a wall of condescendence and disdain. Luc Devigne’s answers did not reassure us. On the contrary, they strenghtened Act Up-Paris, April and La Quadrature’s concerns that ACTA could endanger access to medicine, Free Software and freedom of expression on the Net, while circumventing democratic processes.

Representative from the Trade Directorate General, and negociator of ACTA for the EU, Luc Devigne, took great effort in not answering the questions he was asked. What Mr. Devigne didn't say was more significant than what he did say. According to him, all the analysis suggesting that the agreement under negociation would dangerously impact fundamental freedoms on the Internet, access to medicine in third world countries and the development of Free Software are just "rumours" that should be dismissed.

We remain convinced of the opposite, as confirmed by the latest leaks and analysis. More than ever, the scariest thing is the strong impression that the whole negotiation process of ACTA is aimed at circumventing democratic processes.

Several points raised by the negociator are calling for great concern:

  • Devigne refused to clarify the difference between fake medicines and unlicensed generic drugs.
  • According to Devigne, customs officials could act upon suspicion (for instance for the seizures of medicines on borders), without the intervention of a judge, which is a clear negation of the right to a fair trial and could have dreadful impact on access to medicine.
  • According to him, the notion of "commercial scale" used to define what should be in or out the scope of ACTA, should not be defined, but left up to interpretation by judges (when the entertainment industry apply the notion of "commercial scale" to peer-to-peer filesharing per se!), which is a cause of major legal uncertainty and a threat to individuals.
  • Devigne refused to clarify whether or not operators should restrict Internet access through contract law, which would be the direct consequence of increasing their legal liability through ACTA provisions (criminal sanctions, civil injunctions, statutory damages, ...).

Until all these questions are answered, and the protection of fundamental freedoms, free software and access to medication is guaranteed, ACTA should be totally opposed.