IP and privacy in TTIP / TAFTA

With other representatives of civil society organisations and business stakeholders, I spent an afternoon at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs talking about the ongoing talks on a proposed EU – US trade agreement (TTIP/TAFTA). Intellectual property (IP)

Of course, the ministry assured us that TTIP will not contain ACTA-like Internet provisions or provisions that will limit access to medicine. TTIP will neither change substantial copyright nor the enforcement of copyright. We can only check this after texts are published, may that happen soon. The text of the EU-Singapore FTA is not reassuring, with examples of damages that go beyond adequate damages, creating an upward trend. Continue Reading →

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Seven people can not represent civil society

On 10 February the Information Society Project at Yale Law School organised a debate on Trade and Transparency in the Internet Age. Below my introduction:

I would first like to thank the university for the invitation to speak here. I will say a few things about ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, about its lack of openness, both in the negotiation phase and in the ratification phase. After that I will say a few things about the proposed trade agreement between the United States and the European Union. In May 2008 Wikileaks published a secret discussion paper on a proposed new international agreement, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA. Continue Reading →

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Make copyright compatible with the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

I just made a personal submission to the Public Consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules. I used the You can fix copyright website. Very handy, thanks! I added an attachment, see below or pdf, in which I argue that copyright law has to be made compatible with the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). ——–

Copyright law and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Ante Wessels, 2014

Introduction

This note is an attachment to my submission to the 2014 Public Consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules. Continue Reading →

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EU Commission set to betray us with ISDS

Faced with massive critique, the European Commission announced a consultation on investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS). ISDS gives multinationals the right to sue states before special tribunals if changes in law may lead to lower profits than expected. Multinationals can challenge reform of copyright and patent law, challenge environmental and health policies. The Commission even announced the publication of a proposed EU text. That seems a step forward. Continue Reading →

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EU Ombudsman conflates negotiation and ratification documents

I wrote a letter to the European Ombudsman to solve a misunderstanding regarding my complaint against the European Parliament (see below or pdf). ACTA is dead in Europe, but there are still issues with disclosure of documents. In 2012, the European Parliament refused to disclose the parliament’s legal service’s opinion on ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. In September 2013 I filed a complaint with the European Ombudsman against the European Parliament over this. Unfortunately, the Ombudsman didn’t want to investigate my complaint, so I asked her to reconsider her decision. Continue Reading →

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EU faces double whammy with investor-to-state dispute settlement

In an interview with Inside U.S. Trade, European Parliament International Trade committee chairman Vital Moreira, talking about the trade negotiations with the United States (TTIP / TAFTA), defended the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. Under ISDS companies can sue states if new laws threaten to make expected profits lower. The cases are handled outside national court systems, by tribunals consisting of three investment lawyers. Civil society groups see ISDS as a threat to democracy. Moreira’s defense actually shows the discriminatory nature of investor-to-state dispute settlement and that the EU faces a double whammy with ISDS, through direct effect of treaties. Continue Reading →

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European Parliament waives the right to be informed

In an interview with Inside U.S. Trade, European Parliament International Trade committee Chairman Vital Moreira said, regarding the trade negotiations with the United States (TTIP / TAFTA), that he is not now pressing the European Commission to provide parliament members with access to U.S. negotiating proposals, but that could change if the U.S. authorizes the commission to share these proposals with member states. According to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union article 218 (10), the European Parliament shall be immediately and fully informed at all stages of the procedure. Apparently, the US demands that the EU violates its founding treaties. And the commission and parliament gave in. That’s not a good signal, giving in from the start. Continue Reading →

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Critical Dutch parliament resolution on investor – state dispute settlement

Yesterday the Dutch Parliament (Tweede Kamer) adopted a resolution critical of investor – state dispute settlement (Dutch, pdf). Google translation. My translation:

RESOLUTION OF THE MEMBER Van Ojik C.S.
Presented November 28, 2013

The House,

heard the deliberations,

noting that investor – state dispute settlement (ISDS), or arbitration under an investment treaty, may be part of the trade agreement between the United States and the European Union;

takes the view that inclusion of ISDS in the trade agreement has a number of undesirable consequences, including providing companies operating internationally the possibility to bypass the national justice system;

requests the government to investigate, in the short term, the potential social and environmental risks and the consequences of ISDS for the Netherlands and the financial risks for the Dutch government, and to inform the House about the results of this research;

requests the Government as well, to act in a European context, in order to deal with undesirable effects of the agreement,

and proceeds to the order of the day. Van Ojik
Jan Vos
Jasper van Dijk
Continue Reading →

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Negotiators determined to transfer sovereignty to companies

During a stakeholders meeting on the TTIP / TAFTA trade agreement, EU and US negotiators showed determination to transfer sovereignty to companies. On Friday 15 November, the last day of the second TTIP negotiating round, the EU commission organised a stakeholders meeting. Chief negotiators Dan Mullaney (US) and Ignacio Garcia Bercero (EU) gave a short talk and answered questions. In the stakeholders meeting many topics were discussed, from investor – state dispute settlement, the right to water, the precautionary principle, to consumer safeguards. Here is a (low quality) audio recording, it starts half a minute into the meeting. Continue Reading →

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Trade negotiations and the EU’s strategic interests

This week the EU and US hold a second round of trade negotiations. The military and economic power of states depend on their key industries. Both the EU and US want to strengthen their industries, they carefully listen to them. But a corporate agenda is not the same as a strategic interests agenda. For instance, trading away our policy space, access to medicines, our ability to fight climate change, or transferring sovereignty to corporations does not serve the EU’s strategic interests. Continue Reading →

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Will the Ombudsman rise to the occassion?

A few weeks ago I filed a complaint with the Ombudsman against the European Parliament over the secrecy of legal advice regarding ACTA. The Ombudsman replied that she didn’t want to investigate the complaint as I already got access to the documents (unofficially released versions). In a letter I ask her to reconsider the decision, as the decision seems not in line with an earlier Ombudsman decision, and, more importantly, an investigation could be of major importance. Key paragraphs:

“The secrecy surrounding international negotiations is very problematic. For instance, the secrecy surrounding ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) led to various European Parliament resolutions, two Ombudsman complaints and a Court case. Continue Reading →

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ACTA-plus damages in EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement

The EU and Singapore initialed and published the text of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA). The text contains the much criticized retail price damages, known from the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the treaty the European Parliament rejected last year. On top of the retail price damages the judicial authorities have the authority to order the infringer to pay the right holder the infringer’s profits. This heightens the already very high damages. Retail price damages in EUSFTA

Article 11.44.2 EUSFTA: “In determining the amount of damages for infringement of intellectual property rights, a Party’s judicial authorities shall have the authority to consider, inter alia, any legitimate measure of value the right holder submits, which may include lost profits, the value of the infringed goods or services measured by the market price, or the suggested retail price.” Continue Reading →

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