Answer given by Ms Ferrero-Waldner on behalf of the Commission
The goal of the negotiations of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), launched in July 2008, is to provide an international framework that improves the enforcement of intellectual property right (IPR) laws, by improving international standards as to how to act against large-scale infringements of IPR, often conducted by criminal organisations.
For the Commission, the objective of the negotiations is that the Agreement should guarantee the same level of protection of IPR that the EU currently applies, with all the due guarantees provided by the acquis of the European Union. Furthermore, this acquis in terms of IPR enforcement is without prejudice to national or EU legal provisions in other areas, namely in the area of personal data protection.
The EU negotiating guidelines for ACTA also include issues that are not, or only partially, covered by the EU acquis, particularly in the area of criminal enforcement, which, at the time of the adoption of the negotiating guidelines, was still under the scope of the ‘third pillar’. Most EU Member States insisted on being closely involved in the process due to the inclusion of matters of criminal policy. Consequently, the EU rotating Presidency is handling the negotiation on this matter.
With respect to the specific concerns expressed by the Honourable Member, that the negotiations on liability of Internet service providers should be conducted on the basis of existing EU rules, and notably the directive on electronic commerce (Directive 2000/31/EC(1)), the Commission would like to point out that discussions about a future chapter on the enforcement of IPR in the digital environment are still ongoing. The Commission is in regular contact with the competent authorities in each Member State and has fully considered their valuable input in the analysis and preparation of an EU proposal.
On this basis, the Commission can assure the Honourable Member that the EU's position on the digital enforcement chapter of ACTA will reflect the European acquis. The recently adopted Telecoms Package does not make providers of electronic communications services liable for the information transmitted over the networks; furthermore, the Telecoms Package is without prejudice to Directive 2000/31/EC on electronic commerce referred to above (see in particular Recitals 30 and 31 of Directive 2009/136/EC(2)).
Regarding the role of Parliament on ACTA, the Commission has shared with Parliament all relevant Commission documents that have been shared with the Member States through the 133 Committee (now ‘Trade Policy Committee’). It kept Parliament informed since before the launch of negotiations, particularly via the INTA Committee. Former Commissioners for Trade and the Director-General for Trade have addressed this issue several times in the last three years. The Commission will obviously continue these procedures and remains open to discuss any improvement in the flow of information.
Directive 2000/31/EC of Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the internal market (‘Directive on electronic commerce’), OJ L 178, 17.7.2000.
Directive 2009/136/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2009 amending Directive 2002/22/EC on universal service and users’ rights relating to electronic communications networks and services, Directive 2002/58/EC concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector and Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws Text with EEA relevance, OJ L 337, 18.12.2009.