The controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) took a backwards step on ISP liability in the last round of talks, Europe's Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said overnight [pdf].
It came less than a week after leaked documents from talks in Washington DC reportedly saw a "three strikes" rule - which would compel an ISP to cut off repeat offenders of copyright breach - struck off the ACTA agenda.
De Gucht did not confirm this directly, but he said that discussions over protections for copyright holders in the context of internet regulation had taken a major hit.
“There was a considerable step back in the last round, with the parties unable to agree on a common liability exemption regime for internet service providers,” he said.
The most “innovative” intellectual property protections, which also covered manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, had been proposed for the internet, he said.
But it was likely they would be derailed due to resistance by several members.
“Regrettably, in the last two rounds it has been made increasingly clear that a consensus including all the current ACTA parties will only be reached on the basis of the lowest-common denominator,” he said.
“This will be at the expense of the level of ambition – and effectiveness – of the agreement.”
Stricter border control measures designed to limit the transit of infringing goods also looked set to be compromised, according to De Gucht, because several members opposed additional controls.
De Gucht also said that, although the EU remained committed to the ongoing talks, it could pull out if the agreement was too watered down.
"If, at the end of the process, the EU is faced with a treaty without much concrete added value for our right holders, or with a treaty trying to establish that there are first and second category intellectual property rights, we should be ready to re-consider our participation in the agreement," he said.
A rumoured "final" round of talks starts in Tokyo, Japan on September 23.