Tuesday

22nd May 2018

Focus

The Acta debate - will innovation be stifled?

  • An Acta protest - the controversial treaty has brought people to the streets (Photo: Agnes Lisik)

Opponents of Acta, the controversial anti-counterfeiting treaty up for vote in the European Parliament in July, say, among other things, that it would stifle innovation. Advocates say the exact opposite.

According to the text of the treaty, its sole purpose is to protect the right to intellectual property and, thereby, innovation. People would not make new products if these could easily be copied and distributed without payment.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“The parties to this agreement,” it says in the preamble, “desire to combat […] the proliferation of counterfeit and pirated goods, [which] undermines legitimate trade and sustainable development of the world economy."

Who could ever be opposed to that?

Fear and loathing

Euro-deputies, SMEs, and the European internet industry, however, have come out against the treaty not for its purpose but for its design, citing legal uncertainties.

Their main concern is the apparent vagueness of the text, open to interpretation, which they fear may make life difficult for internet companies.

“This text puts additional obligations on us,” says Maelle Lelardic, spokesperson for EuroISPA, an association of European internet service providers. “And therefore additional costs.”

Article 27 of the treaty - reviled against more than any other part of the text - commits its signatories to “endeavour to promote cooperative efforts within the business community to effectively address trademark and copyright [...] infringement”.

According to EuroISPA, in a statement together with representatives of the European telecommunications industry, “this would enable implementation of EU-wide cooperation obligations such as an extra-judicial ‘graduated response’ mechanism”.

Acta, they fear, may force them to actively police the internet in search of copyright pirates - and, of their own accord, kick them out if they do not toe the line.

Big vs small

A second argument, says Sebastiano Toffaletti, secretary-general of Pin-SME, an association of European IT SMEs, is that “Acta will benefit the big companies and do the opposite to the small ones”.

The treaty, he says, would enable big companies to threaten the internet service providers with legal action if they refuse to take down a small company’s content that may be in breach of the big company’s copyright.

“Big companies have so many patents,” he says. “They file as many as they can, if only in a defensive way.”

But even the internet giants are not entirely convinced. Jeremy Rollison, spokesman for Edima, an association of digital media companies whose members include Amazon, Google and Nokia, says: “We share some of the concerns [about Acta] relating to the potential impact on the EU liability regime.”

Marietje Schaake, Dutch liberal MEP and one of the parliament’s loudest opponents of Acta, agrees that the treaty would stifle innovation - “absolutely,” she says - but for a different reason.

She says that Europe's copyright system today is fragmented and outdated. “American companies don’t even bother to bring their content onto the EU market.” Acta, she says, would only consolidate the old regime and make it more difficult to reform.

Swedish Pirate MEP Amelia Andersdotter agrees. “While the ambition of ACTA is to strengthen EU industries, it appears to be contrary to the ambition [...] to make Europe the scene for cutting edge internet innovation,” she writes in her draft opinion to be voted on by the parliament’s industry committee.

Be happy

For its part, the European Commission maintains that nobody has anything to worry about.

“There is no provision in Acta that changes the current role of internet service providers, as is often claimed,” says EU trade spokesperson John Clancy.

He says that existing EU legislation “is quite clear regarding the impossibility of imposing general obligations on ISPs to monitor the information they transmit” - something that was confirmed, he says, in a recent ruling by the EU court of justice. “And this will not be modified by Acta.”

In the case of a dispute, he says, it will be up to the European Court of Justice to provide legal interpretation. “This is legal certainty, not uncertainty.”

He says that by protecting the right to intellectual property, Acta will “help protect Europe’s raw material - innovations and ideas.”

BusinessEurope, the largest representation in Brussels of industry in Europe, agrees.

“To the contrary, Acta will boost Europe’s innovation,” says spokesperson Ilias Konteas. He says that the treaty will provide legal clarity to those who export to other Acta signatories - currently a handful of countries aside from the US, Japan, and South Korea.

“Exporters will know what to expect,” he says - something that is especially beneficial to “SMEs that cannot afford to pay for legal advice”.

Innovation

As the EU continues to struggle with the effects of the economic crisis, the importance of investing in innovation and research is increasingly been emphasized. But how much money is enough and where should it be spent? EUobserver investigates.

Acta unraveling as Netherlands joins nay-sayers

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.

EU innovation efforts unknown

The efforts of the EU to turn the old continent into an “innovation union” are largely unknown to business leaders, according to a survey by global accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund

The European Commission wants to triple the amount of money for migration in the next EU budget. Earlier this week, EU agencies, NGOs, and the mayor of Athens gave their views at a European parliament public hearing.

News in Brief

  1. Unknown professor proposed as Italy's new prime minister
  2. 154 German economists warn against eurozone reform
  3. Growing €176bn EU trade deficit with China
  4. All 4.8m Swedish homes get 'war preparation' leaflet
  5. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'
  6. Only Estonia, Greece and UK hit Nato spending target
  7. EU to start process to counter US Iran sanctions
  8. Macedonia PM sees 'possible solutions' in Greek name row

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Facebook threatened with removal from EU-US data pact
  2. Defence firms 'reap benefits' of their advice to EU
  3. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  4. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  5. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  6. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  7. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border
  8. Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight