Acta will go to the European Court of Justice in spite of EU parliament!
Is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) compatible with the European Treaties, in particular with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union?" will be the question for the highest European court. The European parliament reacted immediately by announcing it will stick to its plans to vote on it in June

The new treaty between major trading countries to govern intellectual property rights caused quite an uproar worldwide. After the successful campaign against SOPA (and PIPA) in the US, the ACTA treaty became the new target for digital activists worldwide.

The treaty between Europe, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States seeks to stop counterfeiting products and protect copyright protected works. The negotiations took years to complete and before the final text was published all the rumors caused websites worldwide to call for a stop.

ACTA was often, completely incorrectly, described as Europe´s equivalent to SOPA. Strange as the US is a major partyto this treaty as well. The problems for the partners in this treaty are neither Europe nor the US nor most of the other countries but the countries which didn’t sign up. China, the main source for counterfeited product and a country which is not keen on protecting the existing patent system is no party to it, making the treaty somewhat superfluous.

In Europe, Acta, when agreed by the European parliament, will go to the national parliaments who will need to ratify it before the treaty gets into force. Several countries, like Poland, say they will block it, which would nullify the whole effort.

In view of all this the European Commission decided that they will go ahead with the plan to send the treaty to the European Court before asking for the democratic vote. A move was announced yesterday by Karel de Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade and is seen as a way to weather the storm. By silencing critics who claim ACTA will violate fundamental rights in Europe they explicitly ask the court to look at this.

It will mean a delay of about 18 months, but if the EC hadn´t done so chances were high it wouldn´t have survived a first vote in the European Parliament. However the parliament was not impressed and plans on going ahead with a vote as early as June this year.

Buying time could work well as the actual treaty is not as bad as people thought based on earlier drafts. The final text shows that most European countries don´t need to change their existing laws and what most people don’t realize is that Europe is already bound by the earlier TRIPS treaty.

What the European commission wants to achieve by signing the new treaty is a further protection of Europe's economy as they correctly state that innovation, creativity, quality, and brand exclusivity are key advantages of the European economy. Europe is losing billions of Euros annually through counterfeit goods flooding our markets, protecting Intellectual Property Rights means protecting jobs in the EU. It also means consumer safety and secure products. states Karel de Gucht in his press release announcing the move to go the highest court.

The main criticism left is that it codifies the disputed, old fashioned copyright protection system. A business objection for European entrepreneurs could be that the Americans will not convert ACTA into law and have excluded their flawed patent system so by ratifying ACTA Europe would put itself to a disadvantage.

With another year or two before ACTA will be ratified (if ever) by Europe it would be good to think about the current patent system and copyright protection mechanisms. They clearly have difficulty coping with the new economy and the recent battle between the old industry (Hollywood, record companies) and the new digital industry originating from Silicon Valley over SOPA.

While ACTA is on the backburner we recommend this excellent introduction to the ´copyright math´. Rob Reid did a great TED talk about it, which after juggling the numbers the way the old industry likes to present their losses he arrives at the $8 billion iPod. A good laugh and presented to you without any license fees or DRM :)

Does Europe need to fight ACTA or is it just the same old and can the energy better be used to focus on reforms in the copyright and patent laws?

Author: +Max Huijgen

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