The Gallo Report

The Symptom of a Schizophrenic European Parliament

, by Maël Brunet

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

The Gallo Report

The European Parliament adopted the so-called “Gallo report” in a plenary session on September 22. The extremely controversial text is in contrast with the Parliament’s previous engagements on issues of intellectual property rights protection and fundamental rights of European citizens.

What is the Gallo report?

Named after its rapporteur and French Member of Parliament (MEP) Marielle Gallo, this text includes a set of non-binding conclusions and recommendations on the protection of intellectual property rights in cyberspace.

But what is this report really about? It’s difficult to put things in perspective, since the different stakeholders are dagger drawn with each other, reflecting their sensitivity on this topic, by their politics or civil society representatives (see JEF-France press release as a good example of this). Overall, it should be noted that the report’s proposals are vague and ambiguous. Indeed, it calls on the one hand for “private consumers not to be required to prove the legitimacy of reproductions of [their] original products”, but at the same time recommends the adoption of ”additional non-legislative measures" which would therefore completely escape political control.

Moreover, while acknowledging that “data on the extent of violations of intellectual property rights are inconsistent, incomplete, inadequate and scattered”, the Parliament doesn’t hesitate to support both a ”dramatic increase" of sharing files and a direct negative effect on the employment situation which is predicted by stakeholders from the private sector and widely disputed. It seems an incoherent text, reflecting the inconsistency of Parliament on this subject.

An eventful adoption

Despite the vague and general shyness of the report, it has quickly attracted criticism. Within civil society it was (as often on these matters) La Quadrature du Net that really spearheaded the campaign against the report, calling on MEPs to reject it on two occasions (in the committee and during the plenary session). A small controversy also rose up when a few days before the adoption of the report it was revealed that some of the statements by the supporters in the entertainment industry might have been falsified.

On the political front, a coalition composed of the S&D, Greens and GUE groups proposed an alternative resolution, also very vague and ambitious, but purged of the most controversial elements. The surprise this time came from the liberals, who, just days before the plenary vote, put forward their own alternative. Overall, the liberal alternative was quite similar to the text proposed by the European People’s Party (EPP), and therefore cutting off all hope of a “grand coalition” to block the Gallo report.

A text which contrasts with previous positions

The Gallo report is all the more disappointing because the European Parliament has hitherto distinguished itself with progressive and ambitious stances on issues of intellectual property rights protection. We still remember the famous amendment 138 of the “Telecom Package”, on which a lot of ink was spilled last year. This provision would have made the implementation of an automated system of sanctions by cutting Internet connections impossible as it would have notably invalidated the systems, recently put in place in France and the United Kingdom. This passage was finally removed from the text (at the request of the Council), but the position of Parliament still deserves to be welcomed.

More recently, through the written declaration “n° 12” on the ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) negotiations, the Parliament sent a clear signal to the world by denouncing "the absence of a transparent process and presence of a potentially controversial content”. Ignoring its own commitments, the Parliament blurs its previous message through the adoption of the “Gallo report”, a proof of the powerful impact of lobbying in European politics.

The European Parliament, which had previously positioned itself as a key actor to support and regulate the effects of the digital revolution on intellectual property rights, now makes a step backwards, going against its primary mission: to defend the European citizen. Hopefully this error is temporary, and the aim will soon be altered.

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