ACTA has been rejected by the European Parliament

4 Jul 2012

The notoriously Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which nations including Ireland signed earlier this year in Japan, has been overwhelmingly rejected by the European Parliament. The treaty was viewed by many as a harbinger of stringent policies that may have seen users suspected of illegal downloading lose their internet access.

The Parliament voted 478 to 39 to reject the ACTA treaty.

The rejection of ACTA follows protests that saw thousands take to the streets across Europe, as well as five parliamentary committees reject it. The ACTA treaty was viewed by many in a similar light as the controversial SOPA and PIPA legislation that was hastily dropped in the US following widespread outcry.

Signed in Japan in January, the clandestine nature of negotiations between the signing nations and the fact that in relation to internet piracy it initially recommended ‘three strikes’ remedies have only served to stoke up opposition from the public.

At the time, the chief rapporteur assigned by the EU to investigate ACTA MEP Kader Arif resigned in disgust at the way ACTA was being brought through and denounced the entire episode a charade.

While ACTA has been defeated in Europe, it may still flourish elsewhere in the world in countries like Australia, Singapore and the US – but only if these countries’ parliaments ratify it; unlikely now given the EU’s rejection of the treaty.

ACTA rejection seen as a victory for protecting human rights online

Open internet access NGO Access said it was delighted with the news. “Access is ecstatic that the Parliament today, by an overwhelming majority, said ‘No’ to ACTA, delivering the long-awaited fatal blow to this dangerous agreement,” said Raegan MacDonald of Access.

“We are overjoyed that the Parliament took this monumental opportunity to protect human rights and an open internet. We want to recognise all of our members, organisations, communities, and MEPs who fought so hard for ACTA’s defeat.

“That Parliamentarians heard the voices of citizens is encouraging – this is democracy in action. 

“While we believe that artists should be compensated for their work, it never should come at the expense of our freedom of expression and privacy online.

“Now we can begin a new chapter in this battle for internet freedom by working toward much-needed reform on the antiquated and often oppressive copyright laws, and promote a culture that is conducive to creativity, free expression, and an open internet,” MacDonald said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years