Anti-piracy agreement re-discusses copyright infringement liability
The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) has strongly criticised the secret negotiations concerning the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and the package of measures for counteracting infringements of the rights to intangible goods considered by the EU Commission. The foundation considers it particularly questionable that Brussels intends to renegotiate the current liability regulations and exemptions for internet providers in the E-Commerce Directive. This is contained in a paper about the anti-piracy agreement compiled by the EU Commission in September that has now been published by the FFII.
The lobby group is also concerned because the Commission has renewed its call for legal provisions to enforce intellectual property rights, considering these provisions a "key instrument" for deterrence. The proposals for a corresponding EU directive made by the Brussels authority are regarded as controversial and have so far not progressed very far in the adoption process. The Brussels paper says the EU Presidency co-ordinates negotiations on behalf of the member states and can to a large extent define what kind of measures the EU is ready to undertake.
The FFII also fears that the Brussels framework directives might make legal measures, like the blocking of accounts, or the seizing of piracy tools, acceptable again. According to the foundation, such strong measures can block economic growth, especially in the area of software patents, as due to the nature of this area it is virtually impossible not to infringe the respective copyrights. The group said that this gives patent trolls the means to extort companies. The Commission, on the other hand, has warned against alarmist scenarios. It emphasises that ACTA is about tackling large scale criminal activity, not about limiting civil or consumer rights.
Regardless of this, the FFII is deeply concerned that ACTA could lead to a monitoring of all citizens' internet communications and criminalise file sharing. To encourage public discussion of the agreement, which is currently being negotiated behind closed doors by leading industrial nations including the EU, the foundation requests the release of 12 secret EU Council documents about the negotiations and proposals so far. The FFII says "We believe there is no room for stealth legislation in the EU", emphasising its call for more transparency. According to the press release, the European Court of Justice has also stressed that access to preparatory legislative texts contributes to strengthening democracy. In mid September, numerous civil rights organisations called for the publication of the current draft agreement – so far without success.