Here Comes the ACTA Attack - Again

Three years ago I began a series of articles about ACTA - the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. ACTA was originally about tackling counterfeit goods, but had a completely inappropriate digital chapter added, which tried to ride on the coat-tails of the initial plan by suggesting that digital copies were somehow as dangerous as fake medicines or aircraft parts. After a fierce battle that saw hundreds of thousands of Europeans writing to their MEPs, and even taking to the streets, ACTA was thrown out by the European Parliament.

But of course, one characteristic of the copyright industry is that it never gives up. Just as there are worrying indications that TTIP will try to include ACTA-like measures, so it seems that there is an attempt to turn a "Draft Opinion of the [European Parliament's] Committee on Culture and Education for the Committee on Legal Affairs on 'Towards a renewed consensus on the enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights: an EU action plan' " into another Trojan Horse for ACTA-like measures.

The current form of the document is extremely reasonable - no suprise, perhaps, since the Rapporteur is Michel Reimon, an MEP for the Greens who has provided some important TTIP leaks recently. But the proposed amendments are deeply troubling - for example the following:

1b. Points out that in the cultural and creative sector in particular cooperation, including on the basis of self-regulation, between rights holders, authors, platform operators, intermediaries and final consumers should be encouraged with a view to detecting IPR infringements at an early stage; emphasises that the effectiveness of such self-regulation must be assessed by the Commission in the near future and that further legislative measures may be necessary;

This is not self-regulation, but turning ISPs ("platform operators") into the copyright industry's private police force that operates outside the law, and thus without any of its protections. This is precisely what ACTA called for through industry "co-operation". The following proposed amendment also clearly wants to turn (mainly US-based) payment companies into another weapon that can be applied without legal safeguards:

1c. Emphasises that in the cultural and creative sector payment service providers should be involved in the dialogue with a view to reducing the profits generated by IPR infringements in the online sphere;

It's true that these are only amendments to a Draft Opinion from the Committee on Culture and Education directed towards on the Committee on Legal Affairs: there are still many stages to go. But the general tenor of the amendments shows that the forces in the European Parliament that supported ACTA three years ago have re-grouped and are starting to push forward - slowly but unmistakably - towards another assault on Internet freedoms.

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