UK MPs haven't seen the ACTA draft

The controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has come under fire with reports that MPs have not actually seen the bill.

The Act, which seeks to establish international standards on intellectual property rights  enforcement on the internet or through ISPs, has come under pressure today after the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) revealed that neither UK government MPs nor the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee had seen it.

Florian Leppla, Campaigner at the Open Rights Group (ORG), said the findings were “shocking”.

Participants in the negotiations include Australia, Canada, the European Union (EU) – represented by the European Commission (EC), the EU Presidency and EU Member States.  Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the US are also involved. However, according to the ORG no democratic institution in the UK has seen the official ACTA draft, nor have they been involved in the negotiation process.

Florian Leppla said: “I’m shocked that this international agreement that goes well beyond existing copyright treaties has not been examined by Parliament. ACTA will affect all of us and our elected representatives need to know what we are signing up to.”

He said Peter Hustinx, the European Data Protection Supervisor, had also questioned the legality of ACTA under EU privacy laws.2

“ACTA would allow for disporportionate civil copyright damages well beyond current UK law.3 Yet we have been told that changes in law would not be necessary.

“ACTA will drive the UK towards privacy violations, and commit governments to act against personal copyright infringement. It will be used as a weapon to push for new erosions of fundamental rights – without anyone from our Parliament having taken a serious look,” he added.

ACTA has been swept up in a wave of controversy since it was announced. In September it moved to ease this by taking out parts of the bill that would have effectively turned the IPO into copyright police.

It also took out the much bandied about “three strikes” proposal, which sought to target “suspected” unlawful file sharers and possibly even ban them from the internet.

Last month the MPAA sparked waves of protest when it asked Mexico’s Ministry of the Economy whether ACTA could be used to block “damaging” websites like Wikileaks.

The treaty negotiators are expected to meet in Tokyo tomorrow where a final text is likely to be agreed, or at least something that is very close to final.