23/04/2012 Jan Philipp Albrecht : "Data protection cannot be transferred into 27 different regulations"

Jan Philipp Albrecht is a German MEPS, member of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Comittee in the European Parliament. He gave an interview to comment on the debate around ACTA. The main criticism of ACTA is the ambiguity of the different rules. The EU Commission, however, argues that the EU Parliament and NGOs were involved in this project from the start. How can you explain this?

Jan Philipp Albrecht: There are many negotiations on international issues, such as enforcing copyright on brands and products. This is being increasingly regulated on an international scale. These talks are still very obscure; they sometimes last months or years, and neither the EU parliament, which was responsible for the Lisbon Treaty, nor the national parliaments are informed about the various topics of discussions.

As a consequent, there cannot be a real debate. We can only therefore ask what the national parliaments think of it at the end of 2011 and early 2012 (when the agreement would be signed). Moreover, everything is already basically decided. The negotiation process of international agreements, especially if they are concrete, is subject to much criticism, and generally quite unclear. From now on, the European States must think about how they can change this in future so that parliaments and citizens are more involved and that preliminary results could be obtained. In addition, these preliminary results should also be voted on when negotiating international agreements.

The second aspect is that this open question of copyrighting on the internet was not yet under discussion in society. There is still no solution on how to protect the interests of citizens and consumers on the internet, and on the other hand, the rights of artists and authors. The suggestions that have been laid before us do not match with the era of the internet, but reinforce similar rights. This debate must firstly be discussed within the EU before reaching a national level. ACTA was rejected by the Parliament’s committee. Can you tell us why? And if so, do you share this opinion?

Jan Philipp Albrecht: I work for the Committee on Civil Rights, Interior and Justice Policy and Legal Affairs Committee, and from that respect I am interested in ACTA, which adheres to EU law and fundamental rights . The Trade Committee has decided to appeal to the European Court of Justice (this is a matter for the EU Commission), and will now discuss whether the European Parliament will approve or not. Judging by the trend that is already being reflected in Parliament now, ACTA will be not accepted. The European Commission says that the text will have no impact on national policies since such a policy on electronic commerce already exists in the EU. Do you think that ACTA will have possible consequences for authors and their rights on the internet? If so, what are they?

Jan Philipp Albrecht: Generally, as an international agreement, ACTA has no direct consequences on individuals, as these international agreements bind only the States themselves. The Member States must implement the subsequent EU agreement into its national law. For this reason, the consequences of ACTA are only indirectly related to the citizens.

The criticism is thus that this agreement could lead to changes in national laws and as a result of these changes and developments, a trend could emerge, placing owners of copyrighted material in a very strong position. In this case, they could pursue their interests by contacting providers on the internet directly, without going through the police, authorities (official law enforcement) and those who could criminalise the consumers. If users wish to exchange copyrighted material, they could be heavily persecuted under commercial copyright infringement and this is the criticism that ACTA faces. How can we guarantee the freedom of the internet and still have to pay the authors who publish their work on it?

Jan Philipp Albrecht: There is no single answer to this question. On the one hand, we have to protect artists better in relation to owners of a particular work/works. An author who writes an article and sells it onto a newspaper must ensure that the magazine has paid him enough. The focus of enforcing rights (copyright) must be that the commercial owner (newspapers, internet sites) buying the music, must also be forced to pay.

Platforms like and Megaupload earn money from advertising, as well as Youtube and Facebook, which are also earning a large amount from it. Their users share copyrighted material and must pay a part of this usage to the artists. On the other hand, the private exchange between private users and consumers will be decriminalized, and these people should be allowed to exchange material. This message should be clear: We must separate commercial from the non-commercial usage. : The issue of exchanging data on the internet is an important point in the EU (for example, the Loi Hadopi in France). Should these national laws be disarded, and a common EU regulation of the 27 Member States be created?

Jan Philipp Albrecht : It is absolutely necessary that we agree on European regulations. Data protection, for example, cannot be transferred into 27 different regulations. The internet crosses the borders, from which data and copyrighted material flow, and national borders no longer act as legal boundaries.

We need common regulations in our market, since only in this way, are we able to assert them during international negotiations (like how it should have been done with ACTA). Only when we have a European law, can people start understanding that we also have an influence on other countries with our regulations, which must be respected. In order for this to happen, we would need a debate about ACTA. ACTA has been presented to the European Court of Justice, its review will take at least a year and a half. 

On the other hand, ACTA has been suspended under its current form, which seems to be a good thing because this gives us the time and opportunity to go into this in-depth debate and to know what we want as Europeans, to redefine copyrighting and moreover, to pass EU legislation before establishing international regulations.

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