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20th May 2019

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Acta unraveling as Netherlands joins nay-sayers

  • Is Acta beyond rescue? (Photo: Agnes Lisik)

The controversial anti-counterfeit treaty Acta is in danger of unraveling, with Dutch and Australian politicians the latest to cast doubt on it, despite a rearguard effort by the EU commission and the creative industries lobby to save it.

With MEPs widely expected to veto the treaty in Strasbourg next week, the Dutch government revealed on Tuesday (26th June) that it would not ratify Acta, regardless of the European Parliament vote.

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A briefing paper released to MPs by economic affairs minister Maxime Verhagen and justice minister Fred Teeven stated that the government would not back the deal "until it has been indisputably shown to be in line with the constitution."

Acta will be debated by MEPs in Strasbourg on Tuesday (3rd July) with trade commissioner Karel De Gucht, with the vote by all 754 members set to take place the following day.

Meanwhile, in an indication that anti-Acta sentiment is hardening outside the EU, the Australian parliament is also expected to defer ratification citing the expected collapse of the deal in Europe.

In a press statement released on Wednesday (2y June) the parliament's treaties committee recommended that Acta should be halted pending a report by the Australian Law Reform Commission on its Inquiry into copyright and the digital economy; and legal clarifications on the deal from the Australian fovernment.

Committee chair Kelvin Thomson complained about “Acta's potential to shift the balance in the interpretation of copyright law, intellectual property law and patent law”.

He also referred to the hostile reception to Acta in Europe and the US, where Congress is also divided on whether to ratify the treaty.

“The international reaction to Acta, which, without exception, comes from countries which the committee considers would have the same interests as Australia, must also be taken into consideration,” Thomson said.

For hid part, De Gucht continues to insist that he will make a second attempt to get parliament's consent for the treaty, provided that the legal opinion of the European Court of Justice deems that Acta does not infringe on existing EU rights on data privacy and freedom of expression.

Following the vote by the Ttade committee last week, rapporteur David Martin told journalists that the treaty could not be resuscitated without renegotiation if MEPs vote against it.

In a bid to outflank MEPs, De Gucht has indicated that he would be prepared to seek clarifications on enforcement provisions as well as references to "sharing information."

Article 42 of Acta allows signatories to re-open the treaty, with MEPs particularly concerned about proper definition of commercial agreement, sanctions, and the role of internet service providers under the new regime.

The pro-Acta lobby continues to urge MEPs to salvage the treaty.

A statement released following the trade committee vote, signed by over 100 European manufacturing and creative industries firms, said that "a vote to reject Acta now would be to ignore the voices of industry, union, employees, the commission, the Council and member states."

In a separate open letter to MEPs, the group insisted that Acta would have "a positive impact on protecting Europe's industries", adding that MEPs should "focus on the facts and not the misinformation."

Failure to endorse the treaty would "irrevocably affect Europe's credibility as a trusted global trade partner."

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The little-loved anti-counterfeit treaty, Acta, has collapsed after MEPs in the European Parliament vetoed it by an overwhelming majority.

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