Opinion: ACTA – speaking out the unspeakable

image Kader Arif Kader Arif, the Rapporteur for the ACTA agreement in the European Parliament has today resigned over the issues he sees with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

To express his views and issues as a member of the European Parliament he issued the following statement on his blog (in French – English translation below)

Je tiens à dénoncer de la manière la plus vive l’ensemble du processus qui a conduit à la signature de cet accord : non association de la société civile, manque de transparence depuis le début des négociations, reports successifs de la signature du texte sans qu’aucune explication ne soit donnée, mise à l’écart des revendications du Parlement Européen pourtant exprimées dans plusieurs résolutions de notre assemblée.

En tant que rapporteur sur ce texte, j’ai également fait face à des manœuvres inédites de la droite de ce Parlement pour imposer un calendrier accéléré visant à faire passer l’accord au plus vite avant que l’opinion publique ne soit alertée, privant de fait le Parlement européen de son droit d’expression et des outils à sa disposition pour porter les revendications légitimes des citoyens.

Pourtant, et chacun le sait, l’accord ACTA pose problème, qu’il s’agisse de son impact sur les libertés civiles, des responsabilités qu’il fait peser sur les fournisseurs d’accès à internet, des conséquences sur la fabrication de médicaments génériques ou du peu de protection qu’il offre à nos indications géographiques.

Cet accord peut avoir des conséquences majeures sur la vie de nos concitoyens, et pourtant tout est fait pour que le Parlement européen n’ait pas voix au chapitre. Ainsi aujourd’hui, en remettant ce rapport dont j’avais la charge, je souhaite envoyer un signal fort et alerter l’opinion publique sur cette situation inacceptable. Je ne participerai pas à cette mascarade.

English Translation by Duvet-Dayz.com:
”I want to strongly denounce the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, lack of transparency from the beginning of the negotiations, repeatingly postponing the signature of the document(s) without any explanations provided, not taking the demands of the EU Parliament into consideration that were expressed on several occasions within our assembly.

As the Rapporteur for this document(s), I have faced never before seen manoeuvres from the right wing of this Parliament to impose a rush through agenda so that the public would not be alerted, depriving the EU Parliament of its freedom of expression, powers and means provided as the legal representation of the people.

Everyone knows that the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether with regards to its impact on civil rights, the way it wants to create liabilities of Internet access providers, its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little it safeguards our Protected Geographical Status (framework).

This agreement can have major consequences for the lives of our fellow citizens, and yet everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. So today, in releasing this report for which I was in charge, I would like to send a strong signal and alert the public about this unacceptable situation. I will not (continue to) participate in this masquerade.”

Meanwhile the ACTA agreement has yesterday been signed by 22 of the 27 EU member states (EU and states that signed are: the EU, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK) at a ceremony in Tokyo and the EU Commission continues with their propaganda that everything is fine with that agreement.

(Note: Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and the US had already signed ACTA on 01-Oct-2011)

This agreement will still have to be ratified and put into local laws by the parliaments of the respective countries and discussions/votes in the EU are scheduled to continue during June this year.

Besides the issues raised already on further extensions of copyright laws, Internet censorship, holding ISPs liable for activities of their users, the end of generic drugs that currently safe millions of lives every year and further diminishing civil rights, we would like to throw in some of our thoughts on this agreement that we so far have not seen voiced anywhere else (people do seem to forget rather quickly):

We believe what should be extensively discussed and safeguards against it / the stop of the agreement as a whole strongly lobbied by those affected most of this agreement short- mid- and long-term: European High Tech companies or any companies that invest heavily into Research & Development.

A reminder of not so long ago events and a warning:
If we recall events right (can easily be checked) it was in the 1970 early 1980s when U.S. investigators where “invading” European and other non U.S. R&D departments under the “cover” of potential copyright infringement and copied / collected / investigated the secret development (documentations) and research for new products in leading European High-Tech firms. At least sometimes the official investigators were accompanied by “industry experts” or in other words – the employees of commercial U.S. firms that worked in the same field of business. Surprisingly and certainly completely unrelated similar developments / new products showed up unusually quickly with the U.S. competitors. Needless to say that extensive R&D is expensive and who cut corners here.

In short: – We believe that ACTA will open all doors to a new wave of Industrial Espionage particularly in Europe.

Our question to all European High-Tech companies:
How would you feel when your closest competitors will soon have the right to walk around in your company, inspect, copy and note down any of your trade secrets, R&D you invested billions into, your latest inventions that you’re just getting ready to market with new products?

Maybe its time to wake up and do something about that!

A reminder to all European politicians:
We would also like to remind all the yay-sayers in the European parliament, the members of parliament in the various European states and all others involved in this piece of legislation that this could be the last thrust to destroy the competitive edge that European companies still have over their competitors in the U.S., Asia and developing countries.

Maybe the millions of Euros consultancy contracts you’ve been promised after your “career” as representative of the European people might not materialize at all because you rendered Europe out of her influence and possibilities to participate in steering matters. You’ve been a useful tool, but after that you’re not needed any more, so why pay? Hey, isn’t that the cut-throat capitalism you guys always wanted – or wait – was it only when others had to pay the price?

Maybe those who push for such legislation already today don’t take you seriously. They certainly will as soon as you stand up for European interests and her people.

A general reminder:
Have a look at the duties, rights & responsibilities provided to the so-called secret / intelligence services of your and the other countries involved here. Industrial espionage is now included for quite a few of the countries having signed ACTA and besides in the U.S. in Europe – as far as this has been made public – France is training their agents specifically in the “art of industrial espionage” since a few years.

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