Europe Rejects ACTA Anti-Piracy Agreement: What it Means for Hollywood

The victory being celebrated by anti-ACTAvists is largely a symbolic one.

So ACTA is dead, at least in Europe. So what does it mean for Hollywood? Actually, not much. The major studios, as well as the Producers Guild and its European equivalent, backed the treaty, which promised to crack down on piracy and copyright infringement, both online and off.

But in fact, the paper European politicians so decisively rejected Wednesday wasn't as draconian as its opponents would have us think. ACTA's strictest provisions - such as the introduction of graduated response protocols - the so-called "three strikes" laws designed to punish repeat offenders by blocking their Internet access - were cut from the treaty before its final draft. Even ACTA's most ardent opponents admitted the treaty wuldn't radically alter existing laws governing copyright protection in Europe. ACTA would not have forced nations opposed to prosecuting individual users for "non commercial " copyright infringement, such as Germany, to criminalize said activity.

Europe Rejects ACTA Anti-Piracy Trade Agreement

If Hollywood lost the war on ACTA, it did so long ago, when European countries pushed to water down or eliminate the treaty's most controversial proposals.

With or without ACTA, the Motion Picture Association of America can (and will) continue to lobby individual countries to adopt stricter anti-piracy laws, including three-strike provisions. This week, after 15 years of lobbying by Hollywood and three previous attempts, the Canadian Parliament finally passed Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act, which will greatly strengthen laws aimed at combating digital piracy.

And the United States Trade Representative has just proposed a new copyright provision in the wide-ranging trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is being negotiated in San Diego this week amongst nine Pacific Rim countries. In a statement, the USTR said the provision would include a "3-step test" similar to that proscribed in graduated response legislation.

So the victory being celebrated today by anti-ACTAvists in Europe and around the world is largely a symbolic one. But symbols are also important, particularly in politics. While ACTA was, arguably, legally sound (the European Court of Justice is still examining the treaty's legality), politically it was radioactive. Opponents successfully argued ACTA was secretive, deliberately vague and designed to impose a U.S-style, draconian anti-piracy framework on international copyright law. Whatever the factual basis for their claims, the anti-ACTA crowd won the day. European politicians who had initially supported the treaty quickly flip-flopped at the sight of thousands of protestors and millions of anti-ACTA emails.

Supporters of a tougher international regime to fight online piracy will have an even harder time making their case the next time around.