January 26, 2012 | Peter Bradwell

ACTA: signed, not yet sealed - now it's up to us

Today the EU and member states including the UK signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in Japan.

You may remember the healthy debate held here about whether this international treaty was something that the UK should commit itself to, helping policy makers arrive at a collectively taken decision. No? Good spot - there was no such debate! It was waived through the committees responsible for scrutinising the agreement, being deemed a 'document not raising legal or political questions requiring a report to the House'. (I posted about the democratic vacuum at the heart of ACTA here.) This is despite ACTA having very serious consequences for the free flow of information online, repeating the kind of mistakes seen in the US' 'SOPA' and 'PIPA' legislation.

We're getting to crunch time. The ball is now very much in the European Parliament's court. The good news is, that gives you a chance to say why we think ACTA is such bad news. Finally, a mechanism to influence the course of this international agreement. Various committees will be providing opinions over the coming weeks, before a final vote before June. La Quadrature Du Net have set out the process in their latest blog:

ACTA procedure in EU Parliament

  • The International Trade (INTA) Committee of the European Parliament is the main committee working on ACTA.
  • The Legal Affairs (JURI), Development (DEVE), Civil Liberties (LIBE) and the Industry (ITRE) committees will first vote on their opinions after holding “exchange of views” on draft reports in the coming weeks.
  • Opinions will then be sent to INTA to influence its final report, which will recommend the EU Parliament as a whole to reject or accept ACTA.
  • The final, plenary vote by the EU Parliament on ACTA should be held no sooner than June.

So what can you do right now?

First, read up on the problems with ACTA using EDRi's excellent 'What's wrong with ACTA' papers (they're my favourite kind of document: short, and clear). There's a more detailed analysis from La Quadrature Du Net of the final ACTA text here. The actual ACTA text is available here.

And then call UK MEPs who are members of the Development committee, who are currently considering their opinion. There are contact details here. La Quadrature have some suggestions about what to say here. (One tip includes being friendly, concise and clear - after all they're considering ACTA, not responsible for it.) 

There'll be plenty more to do in the coming months - and when we find out when the final vote is, there'll be a big push to convince all MEP's that ACTA needs swatting away. Stay tuned.