The International Trade Committee (INTA) of the European Parliament (EP) is set to adopt its opinion report on ACTA, ahead of the EP’s July 3 vote. RT discussed the controversial act with digital rights expert Jeremie Zimmermann.
It is unclear whether INTA will endorse the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) or denounce it, as did three other committees of the European Parliament. It will become the fourth and final committee to deliver its report on the moot legislation, and will likely affect the EP’s vote.
Pro-ACTA politicians have been making their last-ditch effort to get the committee to approve the legislation. Karel de Gucht, the European Commission’s trade representative, spoke to INTA in an effort to persuade it to produce a favorable report. He is also opposed to holding a vote on the act until after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivers its verdict on the legality of the agreement.
Jeremie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson of the citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net told RT that INTA was also likely to recommend that the vote be delayed.
RT: What are the chances that INTA will support ACTA?
Jeremie Zimmermann: To explicitly support ACTA very little, but there are chances that INTA will adopt what has been presented as a "reasonable" way of just postponing the final vote by a few years, after the ECJ would have given its opinion on ACTA's impact on fundamental freedoms. Such a postponement would in reality help the Commission, who negotiated ACTA for the EU, and the pro-ACTA lobbies: they see this stratagem as a way not to lose face. But in reality having the vote postponed for years would be almost like having ACTA adopted – it wouldn't help us push forward our positive agenda for a reform of copyright that would accept new cultural practices, and it would let the door open for new repressive measures to be presented in the meantime.
This may be a one or two vote decision, and pressure is very high on all the political groups, from industry lobbies and the Commission.
RT: What is the next step after the INTA vote?
JZ: INTA will vote on its voting recommendation for the rest of the Parliament. Then the Parliament as a whole can vote on ACTA, in a plenary vote.
RT: If ACTA is eventually declined at the Parliament's vote, would it be final?
JZ: If the whole of Parliament rejects ACTA, then it will be politically dead forever. The EU cannot ratify it, and with its 27 member states, it is one of the main negotiating partners with the US. So it would mean the total failure of ACTA, and a big blow for the Commission. Then we can push forward a positive reform of copyright, where acts of sharing carried out with no aim of profit would not be combatted anymore, but would be legalized. This way we can invent a copyright system that would not contravene freedom of expression and other fundamental freedoms.
Destroying ACTA would give us some breathing space by creating a political symbol of global importance: the Internet, in all its diversity, winning a global political battle against some of the most powerful industries and governments. This would deserve several crates of Champagne!
RT: Given that cyberspace is essentially international, do you have any concerns about ACTA's American cousin – CISPA?
JZ: When the Internet, as a global public sphere, is under attack, it appears to have an increasingly strong power of reaction. So each time more citizens get informed about political processes, we invent new tools to participate in public debate, we learn more about acting in a cooperative way thanks to digital technologies.