The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) in the European parliament has announced it cannot support the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
The ALDE leader, Guy Verhofstadt announced the group’s decision on Wednesday.
"Although we unambiguously support the protection of intellectual property rights, we also champion fundamental rights and freedoms. We have serious concerns that ACTA does not strike the right balance," he said.
While the alliance maintained its support for “multilateral efforts to protect intellectual property rights,” Verhofstadt said it should be based on a “sectoral approach” that was transparent and rooted in “a publically discussed mandate.”
"Civil society has been extremely vocal in recent months in raising their legitimate concerns on the ACTA agreement which we share. There are too many provisions lacking clarity and certainty as to the way they would be implemented in practice," he continued.
Verhofstadt also said ACTA “wrongly bundles together too many different types of IPR enforcement under the same umbrella,” eliminating the distinction between physical goods and digital services.
"Finally, the countries that are the main sources of counterfeit goods are not party to the agreement, so its value is questionable," Niccolò Rinaldi, (IdV, Italy), ALDE spokesperson on ACTA in the EP international trade committee added.
Critics have long said ACTA was intentionally formulated to be as vague as possible.
On Tuesday, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) expressed his concerns that the agreement could have “unacceptable side effects on individual rights.”
The EU's rapporteur on ACTA David Martin had further warned last week that ACTA could “interfere with fundamental freedoms." He also said there would be no means to "guarantee adequate protection for citizens' rights" once the treaty was ratified.
Martin told RTlast Thursday ACTA would ultimately turn internet service providers into a de facto police force.
While ACTA says it should only be for commercial purposes, Martain argues "'commercial purposes' are very weakly defined." He also expressed the fear it could criminalize "young people who are quite innocently downloading films and music in the privacy of their own homes."
"ACTA tried to deal with counterfeit goods – real physical goods – in the same treaty as it dealt with internet goods, the virtual [ones]. I don’t think the two are meant for the same treatment,"he said.
If the European parliament rejects ACTA, other EU members would not be able to ratify it. However, it could still come into effect if six of the agreement’s 31 signatories chose to do so, though it would not have any legal force within any state that had not individually ratified the act.
Currently, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, the United States, the European Union, and 22 EU member states have signed ACTA, though no state has gone through with the ratification process.