The European Parliament threatened on 10 March to petition the European Court of Justice in an effort to force the European Commission to make public the draft text of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
“The Commission should grant public and parliamentary access to the ACTA negotiating texts … otherwise the European Parliament reserves its right to take suitable action including bringing a case before the European Court of Justice in order to safeguard its prerogatives,” the European Parliament explained in a statement.
A parliamentary resolution condemning the secrecy of the ACTA talks and calling for the negotiating text to be made public was overwhelming approved by 633 to 13, with 16 abstentions.
The European Parliament has been particularly concerned about the proposed “three-strike” rule concerning termination of internet service for illegal downloading, and which is purported to be included in the draft negotiating text. Under the rule, which is law in France, internet service providers would be required to cut off the internet connection of anyone accused of illegally downloading three times.
Many in the education sector are worried that ACTA could potentially restrict access to copyrighted material necessary for learning and research.
In response to the European Parliament’s demands for greater transparency, Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht insisted the EC was not at liberty to release the negotiating text because of a confidentiality agreement signed with the other parties.
“The Commission is in favour of releasing the negotiating documents as soon as possible,” De Gucht. “I cannot unilaterally breach a confidentiality commitment. My credibility as a negotiator is at stake. Nevertheless, I will see to it at the next negotiating round in April the Commission will vigorously push its negotiating partners to agree to release the text, and I will raise European Parliament concerns bilaterally with ACTA parties such as the United States that I am scheduled to meet before then.”
The countries involved in ACTA negotiations include Australia, Canada, the EU, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States. The aim is to reach an agreement by the end of 2010.