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Hydra’s new head: Copyright activists in panic over CETA

Hydra’s new head: Copyright activists in panic over CETA
Less than a week has passed since ACTA was defeated by a comprehensive vote in the European parliament. But some copyright activists believe its provisions may get in through the backdoor via the CETA treaty.

­The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a wide-ranging set of agreements between the EU and Canada. Only a small part of it concerns intellectual property, but this part appears to have been lifted from the drafts of ACTA, often word-for-word, as has been revealed by a leak of unpublished treaty protocols.

“The European Commission strategy appears to be to use CETA as the new ACTA, burying its provisions in a broader Canadian trade agreement with the hope that the European Parliament accepts the same provisions it just rejected with the ACTA framework,” claims Michael Geist, a Canadian law professor, on his website.

Geist quotes dozens of identical passages in ACTA and CETA. ACTA – the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – was meant to fight intellectual property theft in the age of rapid technological progress. Although initially accepted by individual countries with little public consultation, it provoked mass demonstrations across Europe by citizens concerned about governments’ increased surveillance, a decline in privacy and a stifling of free enterprise that could result from the application of the law.

Last Wednesday ACTA was voted down 478 against 39 in the European Parliament.

CETA itself has not yet gone before the EU parliament, but will have to go through it and then be ratified by individual EU members before it can come into force.

Not everyone shares Geist’s concerns.

Rick Falkvinge, the founder of Sweden’s Pirate Party, told RT that the text in the leaked documents dates back to February 2012, when ACTA was still on-course for swift passage through Europe’s legislative assembly. Thus, the text is not a new backdoor initiative, but an artefact.

He also believes that the EU parliament would not risk smuggling ACTA under a new name so soon.

“This is a politically very risky manoeuvre, given the decisive rejection of ACTA, and the Commission is quite smart and suave, so I doubt they would bet any further prestige in getting intellectual property rights to override civil liberties and fundamental rights, no matter what the cost,” he said to RT.

Falkvinge believes that part of the treaty on intellectual property will be heavily re-worked or dropped altogether to save CETA as a whole.

Yet activist Jeremie Zimmermann urges vigilance, noting that only an intense campaign of public pressure put ACTA to the sword. And while the European Parliament rejected it, other bodies of the EU still insist that the legislation is beneficial.

“The role of the European Commission must be questioned, and the Members of the European Parliament – the only democratic institution of the three in the EU – must play a crucial role here to counter this takeover of public policy by a few industry lobbies and technocrats.”

Zimmermann says that even if CETA is shorn of its ACTA imitation, future copyright disputes are inevitable.

“There are no doubts that there will be more attempts to push again for the very same repressive policies,” he said in an interview with RT