THE EUROPEAN UNION’S chief policymaker for digital affairs has openly admitted that the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement treaty is unlikely to come into force in the EU.
Digital Agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes told an audience of bloggers in Berlin that it was a political reality that the international treaty, criticised by many as posing a major threat to online freedom, would never take force in Europe.
“We are now likely to be in a world without SOPA and without ACTA,” Kroes said. “Now we need to find solutions to make the Internet a place of freedom, openness, and innovation fit for all citizens.”
In a wide-ranging speech, Kroes argued that a degree of security was needed in order to safeguard online security, but said the main task facing authorities now was to guarantee this freedom without recourse to ACTA.
“There is no freedom without security; these concepts are interdependent and complementary. I may have the legal right to walk down a particular road at night – but am I truly free to do so, if it is not safe?”
Although ACTA is primarily aimed at stopping the trade of counterfeited physical goods, it contains provisions which demand that participating countries offer equal protection and enforcement procedures against digital copyright infringement.
Specifically, ACTA countries would allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to disclose a user’s information to a copyright holder, where the latter has a sufficient claim that the user is breaching their copyright.
The treaty has already been signed by Ireland and most of the other EU member states, as well as the EU itself, in January – but in order for it to take effect it must first be ratified by the European Parliament, and then be approved by the parliaments of individual countries.
MEPs are expected to vote on ratifying ACTA at plenary level next month, though there have been appeals from some MEPs to defer a vote until the European Court of Justice has had a chance to rule on its legality.
The European Commission agreed last month to refer the treaty to that court, in order to ensure that the deal did not pose a danger to the rights of individual EU citizens.