Brussels, 2 April 2009 — The EU Council leaves the possibility open to pass the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) silently during parliamentary vacation. The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) opposes such secret legislation.
Member of the European Parliament Jens Holm asked the EU Council whether the final draft of ACTA will be published prior to political agreement in the Council. He also asked whether parliaments will have enough time to scrutinise ACTA, and whether the Council can ensure that ACTA is not quietly passed during parliamentary recess. The Council declined to answer these questions.
The Council writes in its answer: “Since the stage of the final determination of the legal basis has not yet been reached, it is not possible for Council to reply in detail to the procedural questions raised by the Honourable Member.”
FFII analyst Ante Wessels comments: “The Council can publish texts regardless of the legal basis. No legal basis obliges the Council to pass ACTA silently during parliamentary recess. The Honourable Member received a bogus answer.”
Behind closed doors, the EU, U.S., Japan and other governments are negotiating ACTA. No drafts are published. ACTA will contain a new international benchmark for legal frameworks on the enforcement of copyrights, trade mark rights, patents and other so called intellectual property rights. Public interest organisations are concerned ACTA may limit access to medicines, limit access to the internet, give patent trolls free reign and harm the most innovative sectors of the economy.
In the U.S., hundreds of advisors, many of them corporate lobbyists, are considered “cleared advisors.” They have access to the ACTA documents.
Ante Wessels comments: “Apparently there is room to give ACTA documents to corporate lobbyists. Then the non-discrimination principle obliges to give the general public access as well. It is a sick and illegal situation that lobbyists receive texts Members of Parliament do not get.”
In related news, Dutch customs authorities sent legitimate generic antiretroviral medicines in transit from India to Nigeria back to India. The shipment’s delay could lead to HIV-positive Nigerian patients missing “critical treatment”, health advocates said in March of this year.
Ante Wessels adds: “While the FFII’s focus is on software and innovation, this example clearly shows where disproportional anti-piracy measures can lead to. They not only hurt companies and innovation, they can actually kill people.”
The European Parliament adopted two resolutions asking for access to ACTA documents. According to the FFII analysis both the European Parliament and the Member States of the EU can veto ACTA.
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The FFII is a not-for-profit association active in over fifty countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. More than 1000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights in data processing.