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Andrew Duff wants new approach to battle against counterfeit

June 9, 2012 2:42 PM

Andrew Duff, Liberal Democrat MEP for the East of England, welcomes the shift of opinion among MEPs towards rejection of the Anti-Counterfeiting Agreement.

ACTA is a multilateral agreement between ten industrial partners, including the EU and theUSwhich seeks to establish international standards on the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR). The international agreement currently in force, TRIPS, dates from 1994 and does not address digital and on-line piracy. ACTA is devised to overcome the opposition from the BRICS to updating TRIPS within the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Counterfeited goods entering the EU every year are estimated at over €8 bn. The software industry claims it loses $53 bn a year as a result of pirated goods.

In a statement today, Duff said: "There is an important battle to be fought against counterfeiting, especially in the field of pharmaceuticals for the sake of public health and in software for the sake of cyber security. But I am not convinced that ACTA is wholly compatible with EU laws on data protection. I am concerned that ACTA tips the balance too far towards the vested interests of rights holders and against the legitimate users of IPR who work at the cutting edge of innovation. Although ACTA is aimed at large-scale organised international crime, its clauses on aiding and abetting copyright infringement will increase pressure on Internet Service Providers to survey their customers. ACTA would criminalise piracy on a'commercial scale', but is vague as to what this entails. Moreover, the agreement makes no defined exceptions for legitimately creative use of copyright material such as satire, parody or music mixing.

"ACTA might have the unforeseen consequence of causing the seizure of generic drugs to developing countries. And the fact that China is not party to the agreement makes it in practice much less valuable than its proponents claim: China was the source of 85% of all illicit goods seized by customs at EU borders.

"What we need now is to disentangle the different types of IPR and construct less all-embracing and more tempered sector specific IPR agreements. Physical goods and digital services cannot be treated in the same way. Copyright law based on the printing of books in the eighteenth century is not a sensible basis for the digital age.

"The European Parliament is seeking assurances from the European Commission and EU states about the implementation of ACTA. The Commission is seeking an opinion from the European Court of Justice. In the absence of sufficient legal certainty and political confidence I would expect Parliament to reject ACTA. In those circumstances, I hope that the European Commission would then undertake more intensive consultation of software inventors, engineers and end-users to produce a more effective WTO instrument against counterfeiting than ACTA appears to be."