BRUSSELS - The European Commission says that the language being negotiated on the proosed Canada-E.U. Trade Agreement regarding Internet service providers "is now totally different" from that in the rejected Anticounterfeiting Trade Agreement.
On Tuesday a leaked draft of the Canada-E.U. Trade Agreement (CETA) dating from February caused controversy when it was noted by digital rights activists to contain the same text as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which was rejected by the European Parliament over online civil liberty concerns.
However, as confirmed by the Commission Trade spokesman John Clancy
on Twitter earlier on Wednesday, the Commission said that the most contested articles in ACTA
, related to Internet service providers being asked to hand over information about subscribers to copyright
holders and working with the business community to clamp down on intellectual property infringement, are not part of the current, up-to-date CETA
text -- nor have they been replaced by anything else.
One of the main sticking points for European parliamentarians was the inclusion of text that would allow signatories to "order an online service provider to disclose expeditiously to a right holder information sufficient to identify a subscriber whose account was allegedly used for [copyright] infringement." This was interpreted by many as tantamount to making ISPs the unofficial police of the Internet. But this article is no longer in the CETA text according to Clancy.
The leaked CETA text dates from February and is likely to have been updated since then. However, since, like ACTA, the deal is being conducted in secret behind closed doors, both Parliamentarians and digital activists are in the dark about what exactly has been changed.
Referring to other similarities with ACTA, the Commission pointed out that many of the provisions in the CETA intellectual property chapter are based on existing E.U. legislation; namely the 2000 eCommerce Directive; the 2001 Information Society Directive; the 2003 Customs Regulation; and the 2004 Enforcement Directive.
"In some of these cases, the language is also similar to the one contained in the 1996 TRIPS Agreement, an international WTO treaty -- these similarities are very likely to stay in the CETA text, but it is false to say that they originate in ACTA," said Commission sources.
The Commission added that a re-evaluation of the CETA text is currently under way "to take into account the impact of the rejection of ACTA".
The Commission also noted that criminal enforcement is a national competence and that this element of the agreement is negotiated by the European Council representing the member states. "The last time there was a negotiating session on criminal enforcement, during a video-conference in October 2011, no agreement was reached on some of the proposals by Canada which are indeed far-reaching," said the Commission.
In an email, Clancy also scotched rumors that CETA could introduce ACTA through the backdoor, saying there is "no basis for any conspiracy theories."
"These accusations are nonsense. A future E.U.-Canada trade deal will be very similar to the bilateral trade deal with South Korea already up and running for a year and which has not brought about the end of a free Internet."
But as the deal is being conducted in secret some digital activists will be difficult to convince. "I want to see proof!" said Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net.
CETA) is still in the early stages and will not be put before the European Parliament until the beginning of 2014.