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Is ACTA dying and are G8 countries reacting to its impending death?

ACTA has been negotiated as a “TRIPS-plus” standard for the enforcement of IP rights between the European Union member states, the United States and nine additional countries since 2007.

Rapporteurs for three committees of the European Parliament (Legal, Industry and Trade, and International Trade) have tabled reports or announced what they will propose on the plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). And the Group of 8 may have signalled a shift to a narrower approach on intellectual property rights at its meeting last week.

ACTA has been negotiated as a “TRIPS-plus” (going beyond the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) standard for the enforcement of IP rights between the European Union member states, the United States and nine additional countries since 2007.

After David Martin, rapporteur for the EP Committee on International Trade – the lead committee for ACTA – announced at a hearing of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) party last week in Brussels that he would recommend a rejection, observers called the highly controversial agreement “dead in the water.”

European Digital Rights Executive Director Joe McNamee suggested there was a visible reaction of the leaders of the Group of 8 industrialised countries vis à vis ACTA. In a “Non-Paper on Intellectual Property Rights Protection” [pdf] by G8 leaders who met in Washington, DC last week there was a narrower focus on counterfeit products and drugs.

The non-paper, which is not part of the official statement of the G8 foreign ministers, proposes a “G8 initiative to strengthen enforcement against counterfeiting and piracy” (an integrated warning system, stronger penalties and border seizure possibilities), a “G8 initiative to support voluntary best practices for securing global supply chains” and a “G8 Initiative to promote pharmaceutical drug safety.” The proposals did not “throw everything together from digital to physical,” McNamee wrote to Intellectual Property Watch.

Voluntary cooperation in IPR protection through the G8 moreover makes sense in the case that the G8 countries are doubtful about the future of ACTA. Neither the US State Department nor the German Foreign Ministry got back to Intellectual Property Watch to comment. Despite the rough ride, ACTA certainly is not yet dead.

The vote in the EP plenary is on the agenda for June and the draft opinion of French Conservative Party Member Marielle Gallo, rapporteur for the Legal Affairs committee, recommends passing the agreement.

In her draft opinion, Gallo tries to lay to bed concerns about ACTA’s negative effects on freedom of expression and civil rights. But the discussion continues, with new events planned by anti-ACTA activists. Amelia Andersdotter (Pirates/Green Party Group) also recommended rejecting ACTA in her opinion for the Industry, Research, and Energy (ITRE) Committee.

All EP committees still have to vote on the respective opinions, and the plenary of the Parliament is expected to vote in mid-June.

By William New