European Parliamentary Committees Oppose ACTA

10:02 AM PST 05/31/2012 by Scott Roxborough

Three of the European Parliament's most influential committees have rejected the controversial copyright legislation.

COLOGNE, Germany - The European Parliament has come out strongly against the ACTA treaty, the U.S.-backed multinational trade agreement that would crack down on copyright infringement online and on trade in counterfeit goods.

Three of the European Parliament's influential committees: the Legal Affairs Committee, the Committee for Industry, Research and Energy and the Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs all voted against implementing the agreement. The votes were split in all three committees, with the narrowest margin on the Legal Affairs Committee, where there were 10 pro-ACTA votes, 12 against and two committee members abstaining. The anti-ACTA voices were strongest in the Committee for Civil Liberties, with 36 voting against the treaty, only one in support and 21 abstentions.

ACTA was set up as a trade agreement between the European Union, the U.S. and several other countries, including Canada, Japan, Australia and Mexico. The stated intention of the treaty is to protect against cross-border copyright infringement, particularly online.

The European Union had tried to push through a quick ratification of the agreement but put those efforts on hold after thousands across Europe demonstrated against ACTA. The treaty's critics say implementing ACTA would involve a draconian attack on the online privacy of EU citizens. Last month, an independent advisory group warned that the widespread monitoring of users' Internet behavior required by ACTA could be a violation of European laws protecting privacy and human rights.

Earlier this week, the Dutch parliament voted to reject ACTA, saying that even if the European Parliament approves the treaty, the government of the Netherlands would never sign it.

The committees' anti-ACTA votes do not yet mean the end of the treaty. On June 21, the European Parliament's Committee on International Trade will vote on ACTA. The four committee votes will then be submitted to the European Parliament ahead of a planned plenary session in early July.

The Parliament can decide whether to put the treaty to a vote, shelf it, or refer ACTA to the European Court of Justice for an opinion on the treaty's legality. If the European Parliament rejects ACTA, it would effectively kill the treaty. If it accepts it, all EU member states would still need to ratify the agreement before it could come into force.

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