April 16, 2012 | Jim Killock

ACTA Edinburgh: David Martin's views

Last Friday, David Martin MEP organised a seminar on ACTA in the EU Parliament's Edinburgh offices. He invited ORG to speak, alongside Susie Winter of the Alliance Against IP Theft Infringement, a chair from the EU Commission,  and about 20 people attended the meeting.

Martin is the rapporteur for the lead EU Parliamentary committee for ACTA, International Trade. His views matter a lot, which is why his decision to recommend a no vote is highly significant.

David Martin's starting point is strongly pro-IP. He accepts that the EU must make money through monetising “our brains” through IP, and that ACTA's aims are laudable.

Martin is a ‘multilateralist’; that is he believes that trade negotiations should involve every country with an interest. ACTA in contrast is a treaty written by a small number of mostly developed and pro-IP nations. He said that he feels that ACTA may push the BRIC (Brazil, India, China) countries into a corner, and organisations like WIPO and the WTO are better places for negotiating global IP standards.

He observed that ACTA conflates approaches to tangible and non-tangible goods, which is rather like confusing “apples and pears”.

He added that ACTA is being pushed by proponents as a serious means to reduce IP infringement, yet is also billed by them as having no legislative effect in the EU. Both cannot be true.

Furthermore, much of the change expected from ACTA seems to be about practice by customs and by ISPs, and Martin said that he felt that this did not need a treaty to achieve these results.

He recognised that Trade Mark violations for drugs could pull in legitimate trade into border disputes and cause problems for access to medicines; and also that deliberately similar trade marks are used between competing generic drugs purely to help correct usage. Simply put, a doctor or nurse needs to understand that the two drugs are the same, and similar names helps make sure of this.

Martin also said that he recognises the concerns around ISPs being pushed into a policing role.

Overall, he said that he felt that the overall effect of ACTA was on the “direction of travel” and in creating “mood music” rather than substance, although ACTA suffers also from a lack of detail which makes it hard to know the real consequences.

He said some of the decisions needed should be democratically debated, rather than decided by treaty, for instance around ISPs roles, which he felt might need to change.

Some of the rights holders at the meeting made the point that a defeat to ACTA would "embolden" the "anti-IP" lobby, especially after SOPA and PIPA. They claimed that a defeat for ACTA might endanger more reasonable proposals in the future.

Such a claim is audacious and extraordinary. For a lobby to substantially write a treaty; to misjudge the societal impacts and political consequences of the agenda that ACTA, SOPA / PIPA and the DEAct promote; and then to say the answer is to press on regardless is deeply irresponsible.

As your grandmother probably used to tell you: when in a hole, stop digging.

But the IP lobby’s keep digging approach shows how how fixed their views are, and how hard they will fight to cling to their strategy.

The final EU Parliamentary vote is likely to be very close, and take place in June or July. There are demonstrations planned across Europe on 9 June. Make sure your views are heard!

Comments (5)

  1. Cyber Glaedyv:
    Apr 17, 2012 at 05:30 PM

    Dear Mr. Killock,

    First of all, allow me to thank you for sharing your thoughts during the seminar - there were some truly important points passed through them.

    I must say I'm quite amused at how you put me together with the rights holders and the “IP lobby”. When I made the point about the relationship between dismissing ACTA and the future of the regulatory instruments in this area, I made it as a point for consideration, which should by no means be a decisive factor in determining the future of ACTA. I'm even more amused, since I'm actually in favour of dismissing this treaty.

    Furthermore, I'd like to point out a certain overstatement in your article. In the relevant paragraph, you (quite accurately) used the expression “more reasonable proposals” - however, the next paragraph interprets this term as proposals pushing on the same line as the ones currently endorsed by the “pro-IP lobby”. When I spoke of the “more reasonable proposals”, I was thinking of more balanced proposals, departing from the blunt enforcement strategies visible in the recent legislative initiatives.

    That being said, I hope that we are going to have another opportunity to discuss matters related to online copyright infringement – I definitely look forward to it.


  2. Jim Killock:
    Apr 19, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    Hi there CyberGlaedyv,

    Your views were certainly interesting and provocative, and my apologies if I misremembered and did not mention that you (a neutral party) brought up the point about ACTA's enemies gaining momentum first. As I remember the point was then echoed by others, who were more clearly in the rights holder camp. The point was finally addressed by David Martin after some discussion if I recall correctly.

    While you personally speculating about the result of ACTA as a non-aligned observer, if you like, is one thing, the rights holders it seemed to me wished to take this a step further and seemed to enthusastically encourage the view that the EU should pursue a last stand in the bunker strategy to defend the treaty against the hordes outside. If they are pushing such a strategy, it is unwise and should be dismissed. I'll be looking out to see if they make such arguments again.

  3. Cyber Glaedyv:
    Apr 19, 2012 at 01:02 PM

    And I can only agree with you on this one - if saving ACTA would be regarded as defending the symbol of aggressive enforcement strategies, then this should not occur and the treaty should be dismissed. Moreover, the fall of the treaty might actually be a clear sign to the copyright industry that they have to come up with something better that the "pursue by all means" approach.

    My current concern is that the copyright industry might not be capable of coming up with such an alternative. And if we just limit ourselves to defeating each new proposal or treaty from the "blunt enforcement" line, I'm worried that nothing will change; new initiatives of this kind will keep on coming, some individuals will be getting arrested (e.g. TV Shack admin, operators of Megaupload, or members of the public who were targeted by ACS:Law), and online copyright infringement will thrive anyway. Not to mention the amount of public spending dedicated to this conflict.

    Additionally – and here we come back to the discussed provocative point – should I be proven wrong, and copyright industries DO produce a proposal which acknowledges the ineffectiveness and disproportionality of the purely punitive enforcement regime, I thought that there is a risk that such an initiative would be dismissed as a “yet another trick” from the evil, greedy group of copyright owners.

    That is why I think it would be most desirable to have concrete legislative proposals coming from the side of those who oppose copyright industry's "ends-justify-the-means" approach. Such proposals would probably entail reducing the scope of copyright owners' rights, or reshaping them, and for this reason they might initially oppose them. However, last months have shown that there might be enough energy within the society to push such proposals through.

    In July, I will begin work on one version of such a proposal. Once I come up with a relatively coherent first draft, I'd be most grateful if I could send it to you for review.

  4. Cyber Glaedyv:
    Apr 19, 2012 at 09:50 PM

    (Argh, pardon my lack of attention - those targeted by ACS:Law obviously weren't arrested - my brain must have had a temporary blackout)

  5. Jim Killock:
    May 01, 2012 at 03:53 PM

    Thanks, I look forward to seeing that!