Bitkom blasts ACTA

German industry association Bitkom (Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media) has said it is concerned about the current state of the ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) proceedings.

Bitkom chairman Volker Smid diplomatically commented “we are afraid that a lot of things are being lumped together and the measures will overshoot the mark”.

Smid said Bitkom supported internationally coordinated efforts aimed at product piracy in the IT sector, however he added that “privacy and data privacy, as well as basic principles of our legal system are not sacrificed”. Checking PCs and MP3-players at borders, as is currently being discussed in ACTA negotiations, should stay a taboo.

Bitkom also took a stance against measures proposed in ACTA which would see providers cut off internet access if they suspect a customer may or may not be downloading a movie or a song from the internet.

“Turning providers into sheriffs and law enforcers contradicts our principles of law. Prosecution is the duty of the police and judiciary. Companies should only be obligated to cooperate in the case of official investigations. We already have adequate laws for that in Germany,” he said.

As ACTA is an internationally binding law, it would mean EU member states would be forced to change their national laws accordingly. Checking someone’s iPod or notebook for an IP-related infringement at a border crossing without probable cause sounds like a totalitarian nightmare cooked up by a fascist, not like the kind of law that should even be considered worth discussing in post-Schengen Europe, where free travel amongst countries is a right.

ACTA is set to be voted on this year. Citizens worldwide should be highly concerned, seeing as the Gallo Report recently passed through the European Parliament. ACTA is placing P2P, or simple sharing of music and movies, both of which is either legal or a mere infringement in most countries, on the same level as forgery and counterfeiting perpetrated by organised crime.

Due to its incendiary content, the agreement is being discussed behind closed doors. British MPs haven’t even seen the bill itself, whereas India is set to torpedo ACTA and will hold talks with China, Brazil and Egypt to put it into the trash can.

Emerging markets are furious about wording such as that an infringement may occur “if a medicine or product is made for which a company holds a patent in any country, no matter how unclear in scope and validity of the patent is.”