European watchdog warns Acta could threaten rights

Protesters hold up laptops spelling out "Stop Acta" There have been widespread demonstrations against Acta

A European data protection watchdog has added its voice to growing criticism of proposed anti-piracy legislation.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) said that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta) might have "unacceptable side effects" on individual rights.

Acta must be rubber-stamped by the European Parliament to come into force.

The MEP responsible for recommending which way lawmakers should vote has already said it should be rejected.

David Martin, the Parliament's rapporteur on Acta, said last week that politicians would not be able to "guarantee adequate protection for citizens' rights" if the treaty was ratified.

What is Acta?

  • The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is an international treaty aiming to standardise copyright protection measures
  • It seeks to curb trade of counterfeited physical goods, including copyrighted material online
  • Preventative measures include possible imprisonment and fines
  • Critics argue that it will stifle freedom of expression on the internet, and it has been likened to the controversial US Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa)
  • Acta has been signed by 22 EU members, including the UK, but has yet to be ratified by the European Parliament

To date 22 member states, including the UK, have signed up.

A debate on the EU's adoption of the treaty is expected in June.

EDPS warned that any large scale monitoring of citizens' use of the internet would be disproportionate.

"While more international co-operation is needed for the enforcement of IP rights, the means envisaged must not come at the expense of the fundamental rights of individuals," said Giovanni Buttarelli, assistant European data protection supervisor.

"A right balance between the fight against IP infringement and the rights to privacy and data protection must be respected. It appears that Acta has not been fully successful in this respect."

Earlier this year, thousands of protesters demonstrated in cities including Berlin and Warsaw to share their objection to the agreement, which critics say will stifle freedom on the internet.

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