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ACTA Ratification Underway, Must be Rejected

With the EU Commission's announcement of the upcoming release of a memo regarding the signature and ratification of ACTA by the European Union, La Quadrature has sent a letter to Christine Lagarde, French Minister of Economic Affairs. The citizen advocacy group solemnly asks France not to sign this dangerous and illegitimate agreement and encourages citizens from all the negotiating countries to do the same.

These past few weeks, scarce details have emerged regarding the ratification of ACTA. On May 1st, ACTA was opened to signature, and late-May, the Commission stated that it would soon present a proposal for an EU decision to sign the agreement.1. At this point, it also looks like each of the EU Member States may also have to sign the treaty individually2, although this will have to be confirmed by the Commission. What is sure, though, is that the signature of ACTA will pave the way for the ratification procedure, whereby Parliaments will vote on the agreement, without possibility of amending it.

ACTA needs to be rejected. In the digital environment, its entry into force could result in the development of extra-judicial modes of copyright enforcement violating the right to a fair trial, as well as Net neutrality and freedom of expression3. Under the guise of harmless "cooperation"4, US and EU public authorities are actually laying down a very dangerous strategy to tackle online culture-sharing and protect the entertainment industries' obsolete business models. This strategy was once again reaffirmed by the G8 on May 27th5.

If they have their way, the copyright lobbies' traditional policy-laundering technique – which consists in enacting extremist provisions at the international level to impose them nationally – will have succeeded. It is still time to contact your governments and tell them why they must not sign ACTA.

Letter:

To: Ms Christine Lagarde, Minister of the Economy, Industry and Employment

Subject: France must reject ACTA

Dear Minister,

In the coming days, representatives of the countries negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will gather to sign this text, (thus) opening the door to the (its) ratification process. We urge you to oppose, in the name of France, the signature of the agreement.

As you know, ACTA has been widely criticized, all along the negotiations that started more than three years ago. Critics first denounced the lack of transparency: during more than eighteen months, negotiating countries led by the US, Japan and the EU acted in complete opacity. In March 2010, after several leaks of documents and increasing criticism on the international stage, the negotiators finally released a first working version of ACTA. Nonetheless, Parliaments were never involved in the discussions, even though ACTA goes far beyond trade policy.

Indeed, the agreement seeks to organize the global enforcement of infringement, confusing the counterfeiting of physical goods with copyright infringement of immaterial goods, even when such infringement is carried without any intention of profit. The chapter on the digital environment focuses on the fight against sharing of cultural works online and tends to force Internet actors to fight against these practices themselves. By no means can (/It is impossible that) such an extra-judicial “cooperation” between commercial companies respect the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression and privacy.

Moreover, by imposing criminal sanctions for all kinds of patents, copyright and trademarks infringements, and by creating new infringements – such as the very vaguely defined infringement for “aiding and abetting copyright infringement on a commercial scale” – ACTA steps up a baseless repression at the international level.

ACTA is an illegitimate agreement that runs counter to history and will create legal uncertainty for innovative actors and citizens on the Internet. It is still time for France, who took part in the negotiations, to forego its signature in order to engage in an open-ended reflection on how to adapt our legislations to the knowledge society.

Yours faithfully,

Philippe Aigrain, Gerald Sedrati-Dinet, Benjamin Sonntag, Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founders of La Quadrature du Net.

  • 1. See pp. 20-21 of the EU Commission's IPR strategy, announced on May 26th:
    “The EU should also be in a position to ratify the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) once it has been signed by the contracting parties in the course of 2011. ACTA, which is fully in line with the EU acquis, is an important step in improving the international fight against IPR infringements, in cooperation with countries sharing the same concerns and views. The Commission will table its proposal for an EU decision to sign the agreement in the coming weeks.”
  • 2. At least ACTA's criminal chapter.
  • 3. See our analysis of ACTA's worst provisions: http://www.laquadrature.net/en/acta-updated-analysis-of-the-final-version
  • 4. See in particular article 27.3: Each Party shall endeavour to promote cooperative efforts within the business community to effectively address trademark and copyright or related rights infringement while preserving legitimate competition and, consistent with that Party’s law, preserving fundamental principles such as freedom of expression, fair process, and privacy.
  • 5. G8 Declaration – Renewed Commitment to Freedom and Democracy, of May 30th, 2011:
    “With regard to the protection of intellectual property, in particular copyright, trademarks, trade secrets and patents, we recognize the need to have national laws and frameworks for improved enforcement. We are thus renewing our commitment to ensuring effective action against violations of intellectual property rights in the digital arena, including action that addresses present and future infringements. We recognize that the effective implementation of intellectual property rules requires suitable international cooperation of relevant stakeholders, including with the private sector.” Address: http://www.g20-g8.com/g8-g20/g8/english/live/news/renewed-commitment-for-freedom-and-democracy.1314.html