Thousands of Bulgarians marched in rallies across the country in protest against ACTA. Photo: Krassimir Yuskesseliev
Measures to enforce intellectual property rights in the digital environment contained in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) treaty could threaten privacy and data protection if not properly implemented, European Union's data privacy watchdog has said.
In a statement accompanying its opinion, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) said that "the lack of precision of the Agreement about the measures to be deployed to tackle infringements of intellectual property rights ('IP rights') on the Internet may have unacceptable side effects on fundamental rights of individuals, if they are not implemented properly."
In particular, measures that allowed the "indiscriminate or widespread monitoring of Internet users' behaviour, and/or electronic communications, in relation to trivial, small-scale, not for profit infringement would be disproportionate" and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the Data Protection Directive.
ACTA does not contain sufficient limitations and safeguards, such as effective judicial protection, due process, the principle of the presumption of innocence, and the right to privacy and data protection, the statement said.
"While more international cooperation is needed for the enforcement of intellectual property rights, the means envisaged must not come at the expense of the fundamental rights of individuals. A right balance between the fight against intellectual property infringements and the rights to privacy and data protection must be respected. It appears that ACTA has not been fully successful in this respect," assistant European data protection supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli, who authored the opinion, said in the statement.
The opinion, the second by EDPS on the issue, echoes the criticism levelled by interned freedom groups, who have said that ACTA's vaguely-worded provisions could be used to stifle online innovation and police online content.
ACTA has already been referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) by the European Commission, the EU institution that has participated in the drafting of the treaty. The Commission has also urged European Parliament, whose ratification is required to make the treaty binding on the 27 EU member states, to wait until the court issues a ruling on whether ACTA was compatible with the European treaties, in particular with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
MEPs, however, are still expected to go ahead with their plans to debate the treaty in June.
EDPS said its opinion should not be understood as pre-empting the advice of the Court of Justice.
After 22 EU member states signed ACTA in Tokyo in late January, rallies in dozens of European cities and towns protested against ACTA, which internet freedom groups say opens the door for tight policing of online content.
More than 100 000 across Europe have joined concerted anti-ACTA protests on February 11, but a second wave of rallies on February 25, shortly after the EC decided to refer the treaty to the ECJ, drew decidedly less support.
Gallup International Association poll gives president Sarkisian’s party 44 per cent, while three main challengers alleged ‘machinations’ by ruling party in what – in contrast to 2008 – reportedly was a largely peaceful election.
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