This article is part of our special report Data protection.
The anti-piracy ACTA agreement goes far beyond what is acceptable in the defence of intellectual property, threatening to internet users' privacy and allowing even legitimate websites to be blocked, says Ivaylo Kalfin.
Ivaylo Kalfin is a Bulgarian MEP and member of the Socialists and Democrats Group. He has previously served as the minister of foreign affairs and deputy prime minister of Bulgaria.
"The noise and thunder surrounding ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) was quite predictable. It is of no surprise if thousands of European citizens are at this moment on the streets of many European capitals protesting against intrusion into their private life by unknown agents, sitting behind closed doors.
They are angry at the frightening decision of their governments to sign ACTA despite their apprehension. I fully share these concerns.
No doubt that ACTA was intended for the noble purpose of protecting intellectual property. It is rare nowadays for an international agreement to be negotiated in such secrecy and covertness. In the time it spent behind closed doors it became a monstrous creature, reaching far beyond the worries of the torrent fans that you read in the today's press.
The main point of concern is the legal lack of clarity on many issues which are touched upon by ACTA. These should not be neglected since it could easily land us into unwarranted repression and censorship on the internet. For example how are internet service providers (ISPs) supposed to judge on the genuineness of a product or the true motivation of an internet user? Have you ever tried to verify a product on the screen?
One of the most dangerous provisions of ACTA is the imposition upon internet providers of the obligation to monitor content on the internet. They are about to be assigned to spy and report in case any IP right holder, of any kind, suspects there is a violation of their rights.
This entitles internet providers to follow each email or online action of the user and to provide to the right holder all the necessary information for identifying malicious users. Goodbye privacy, goodbye personal data protection!
This is ridiculous enough but it goes further as ISPs are expected to block websites that offer suspected counterfeit goods or that have products protected by copyright that could be downloaded, such as films, songs, games, photographs, etc. That would mean a substantial increase of the expenditures of the ISPs and correspondingly – an increase of the cost of the internet.
In its present appearance ACTA would limit severely the use of open source software and other applications, which is extremely short-sighted and unfair. Not to mention the technical difficulties that will arise to create filters for content or to determine whether a product is counterfeit or not. The EU already maintains one of the highest standards of intellectual property protection in the world.
The European Commission claims that ACTA does not contradict existing EU law and international agreements. However, the European Parliament expressed its concerns in a resolution in 2010 but these are not sufficiently reflected in the text of ACTA, signed by the Commission.
Now it is again up to the members of Parliament to give their consent to the job done by the Council of the EU. I hope that the freedom and dynamism of the internet are not going to be put into jeopardy by ratifying the current text of ACTA."