Controversial anti-piracy agreement will not be ratified in the EU; campaigners call vote a ‘triumph for democracy’
The European Parliament has comprehensively rejected the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) treaty, with nearly 500 MEPs voting against it.
The agreement was hailed as an anti-piracy measure, one that would safeguard the intellectual property of European parties across the world. However campaigners against it said ACTA could place restrictions on internet freedom and civil liberties.
Although ACTA had been signed by 22 EU member states, including the UK, it had not been ratified. This rejection means that will not happen in Europe and the agreement is effectively dead in the water.
Outside the EU there is a chance it could be ratified but that is thought unlikely following this defeat. Countries such as the US, New Zealand, Canada and Japan had also initially backed it but it is difficult to see them ratifying it following the European vote, as well as the huge level of protests against the agreement.
In total 478 MEPs voted against it, 39 voted in favour and 165 abstained.
According to the BBC, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, said the EU would continue to work towards finding a solution that worked.
"Today’s rejection does not change the fact that the European Commission has committed itself to seeking answers to the questions raised by the European public," he said.
"The European Commission will continue to seek the legal opinion of the European Court of Justice on whether this agreement harms any of the fundamental rights of European citizens – including freedom of speech," he added. "European citizens have raised these concerns and now they have the right to receive answers. We must respect that right."
However campaigners against the agreement were delighted with today’s vote.
"The European Parliament vote is a triumph of democracy over special interests and shady back-room deals," said Loz Kaye, leader of the Pirate Party UK. "This is a significant victory for digital rights, and it’s thanks to the tireless work of activists and grass roots organisations, including the Pirate Party world wide."
"I’m pleased the MEPs have listened to the millions of people who contacted them and came out on the streets to protest against ACTA, instead of being misled by the empty promises of industry lobbyists," he added.
MEP David Martin, one of the most vocal critics of the deal, added: "I am proud to say that the highly controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will not come into force in the European Union after the plenary of the EU Parliament today supported my advice and rejected the ratification of the international agreement."
"The Treaty was too vague and was open to misinterpretation. I will always support civil liberties over intellectual property rights protection. ACTA was wrong from the start. It was negotiated in secret, and tries to put together incomparable elements in the same Treaty; incompatible elements such as counterfeit goods and on-line copyright," he said.
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said: "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. The Commission must drop its calls to try again."