ACTA Legislation Rejected By European Parliament
July 5, 2012

ACTA Legislation Rejected By European Parliament

John Neumann for - Your Universe Online

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), an international effort to criminalize copyright infringement spearheaded by music and film production companies in the US, Canada and Japan was defeated by an overwhelming majority by the European Parliament this week, according to various media reports.

Backers of the ACTA said the act would curb counterfeiting, unpaid downloads and media streaming services, creating a common international standard for policing copyright piracy.

“This is a remarkable development that was virtually unthinkable even a year ago,” University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist wrote on his blog, cheering the decision.

Opponents of the treaty expressed concern that the laws would lead to censorship and snooping on the internet activities of ordinary citizens.

Alex Wilks, who directed the anti-ACTA campaign for the advocacy group Avaaz, explained how the agreement would have permitted private companies to spy on the activities of anyone using the internet and would have allowed users to be cut off from the web without due process, writes Don Melvin for the Associated Press.

The vote – 39 in favor, 478 against, with 165 abstentions – appeared to deal the death blow to the European Union´s participation in a treaty it helped negotiate, though other countries may still participate without the EU.

David Martin, a member of the European Parliament from Scotland, pronounced the agreement dead. “No emergency surgery, no transplant, no long period of recuperation is going to save ACTA,” Martin said. “It´s time to give it its last rites. It´s time to allow its friends to mourn and for the rest of us to get on with our lives.”

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht did not sound ready to give up altogether. He explained that he would move ahead with his plan to have Europe´s highest court determine whether the agreement, as currently written, would curtail any fundamental European rights, and would consider his next move in light of that opinion.

“It´s clear that the question of protecting intellectual property does need to be addressed on a global scale – for business, the creative industries, whether in Europe or our partner countries,” De Gucht said. “With the rejection of ACTA, the need to protect the backbone of Europe´s economy across the globe: our innovation, our creativity, our ideas – our intellectual property – does not disappear.”

A statement from Europe´s “creative industries,” representing 130 trade federations representing sectors employing over 120 million workers, bemoaned Wednesday´s vote, saying it would damage Europe´s economy.

“The decision on ACTA is a missed opportunity for the EU to protect its creative and innovation-based industries in the international market place,” the statement said. “Intellectual property rights remain the engine for Europe´s global competitiveness and a driver of economic growth and jobs. In the current economic climate, it is particularly crucial to protect these beyond the EU itself.”

Alan C. Drewsen, executive director of the International Trademark Association, was particularly critical. “Europe could have seized the chance to support an important treaty that improved intellectual property standards internationally,” Drewsen said. “We expect that ACTA will move ahead without the EU, which is a significant loss for the 27 member states.”

The failure to ratify the treaty is a humiliation for the European Union, which was one of the prime movers in the multi-year effort to negotiate the agreement. EU officials had maintained that ACTA would change nothing in European law, but would be simply an instance of the EU leading by example and exporting its strong copyright protection laws to other countries where safeguards are weaker.

As the decision was made, some of those in attendance held banners reading: “Hello democracy, goodbye ACTA”. The UK´s Pirate Party had campaigned against ACTA since details of the treaty were first made public, reports BBC News. In a statement, leader Loz Kaye said he was pleased that politicians “listened to the millions” of people who had sent messages in protest.