Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement rejected by the EU Parliament
5 July 2012
The European Parliament has voted to reject ACTA, the controversial international anti-counterfeiting treaty.
If implemented, ACTA would have had a significant impact on intellectual property law in Europe, particularly in terms of piracy and medical patenting. However, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly against the treaty, with only 39 in favour to the 478 against.
The vote means that ACTA is likely dead in Europe – however, the treaty could be revived if the European Commission wins a decision in court to have it implemented. European Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht signalled his intentions last month to bring a different version of ACTA back if the current incarnation was rejected.
As EU countries have signed the treaty, it could still be theoretically brought into effect, but lack of international co-operation would render the treaty somewhat ineffective.
There are widespread fears over the effect that a fully operational ACTA could have on intellectual property – many fear that it will greatly limit internet freedom, and would lead to the shutdown of sites like Facebook and Twitter if a single one of their users shares pirated content.
There are further fears about the effect that the treaty would have on medicine, making it harder for people, particularly in poorer countries, to access medicine they may need.
The European Commissioner refuted this in a statement last month, insisting that there was “nothing to fear” from ACTA. “As I have said before, ACTA is not an attack on our liberties, it is a defence of our livelihoods.”
Karel de Gucht words failed to convince the court, and many opposed to ACTA yesterday expressed their delight, including Jim Killock from the UK’s Open Rights Group. "This is a tremendous victory for the movement, for democracy and for every European citizen that has demanded that their rights be respected. ACTA must be abandoned.”
Many members of the European parliament also spoke out in favour of the bill being rejected, including Welsh MEP Jill Evans, who commended the parliament for standing up to “pressure from big business,” and Scottish MEP Alyn Smith. Mr Smith added “We need to see improvement in the area of copyright and patent enforcement without the impairment of civil liberties and access to information and medicines.”
Despite the EU parliament’s rejection of ACTA, other countries, including Japan, Australia and the US, are expected to continue working towards its implementation.