European Lawmakers Reject ACTA

ACTA Logo - H 2012

The controversial anti-counterfeiting treaty is all but dead in Europe after the European Parliament's trade committee rejects it.

COLOGNE, Germany – European lawmakers put another nail in ACTA’s coffin Thursday, insuring that the controversial anti-counterfeiting treaty will most likely be fail to pass the European Parliament.

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The Parliament’s powerful International Trade Committee (Inta) voted 19-12 recommending European parliamentarians reject ACTA when the treaty comes to a vote on July 4. This is the fifth European committee in a row to vote against ACTA.

The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) can no longer amend the treaty but must vote either to accept or reject ACTA.

If they vote to derail the treaty, which now seems inevitable, it will be the first time the European Parliament has rejected an international agreement since it gave it gave itself the power to do so back in 2008.

The aim of the U.S.-backed ACTA agreement, is to crack down on intellectual property theft – both online in the form of pirated films, music and software and in the trade of fake consumer goods and pharmaceutics.

The European Commission had initially backed ACTA, arguing it would target large-scale criminal piracy operations, but the treaty proved highly controversial in Europe. Thousands of citizens in several countries took to the streets in protect against it, arguing it would violate European human rights to privacy by criminalizing the downloading of files for personal use.

This was an argument the majority of the 31 members on the European Parliament’s trade committee agreed with, arguing ACTA risked criminalizing citizens who downloaded files from illegal torrent websites.

Such criminalization could infringe on European Union privacy law. The European Commission has asked the highest EU court to rule on the matter but a decision could take up to a year.

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The lead negotiator for the EU on ACTA, French MEP Kader Arif, resigned in protest in January, saying the treaty would not only restrict Internet freedom but also curb access to generic drugs, an issue that has been raised by several developing countries opposed to the treaty.

The U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan have all signed ACTA but so far none of them have yet ratified it.