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The European Parliament has voted yesterday to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
The proposed agreement sought to curb piracy, but internet campaigners said it posed a threat to online freedoms.
The rejection vote followed a failed attempt to postpone the decision because of ongoing investigations into ACTA by the European Court of Justice.
Euro MP David Martin said: “It’s time to give [ACTA] its last rites.”
Twenty-two EU member states had signed the ACTA treaty – but it had not been formally ratified.
Outside the EU, the treaty also had the support of the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.
The European Parliament has voted yesterday to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)
However, following significant protests, several countries chose not to back it.
Wednesday’s vote is seen by most observers as the final blow to the treaty in its current form. It means no member states will be able to join the agreement.
A total of 478 MEPs voted against the deal, with 39 in favor. There were 165 abstentions.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said work on tackling piracy would continue.
“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.
“European citizens have raised these concerns and now they have the right to receive answers. We must respect that right.”
As the decision was made, some of those in attendance held banners reading: “Hello democracy, goodbye ACTA.”
However, key players in the creative industries expressed frustration at the decision.
“ACTA is an important tool for promoting European jobs and intellectual property,” said Anne Bergman-Tahon, director of the Federation of European Publishers.
“Unfortunately the treaty got off on the wrong foot in the parliament, and the real and significant merits of the treaty did not prevail.”
Alan Drewsen, executive director of the International Trademark Association, warned that Europe could now be left behind when it comes to protecting intellectual property.
“Europe could have seized the chance to support an important treaty that improved intellectual property standards internationally,” he said.
“We expect that ACTA will move ahead without the EU, which is a significant loss for the 27 member states.”
What is ACTA?
• The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is an international treaty aiming to standardise copyright protection measures.
• It seeks to curb trade of counterfeit physical goods, including copyrighted material online.
• Deterrents include possible imprisonment and fines.
• Critics argue that it will stifle freedom of expression on the internet, and it has been likened to the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
• ACTA had been signed by 22 EU members but has now been rejected by the European Parliament.
The controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is back under scrutiny as the European Parliament prepares to carry out a series of key votes.
ACTA seeks to curb the spread of illegally downloaded copyrighted material online.
However, critics say it is a potential threat to freedom of speech online.
To date 22 member states have signed the treaty – but it is yet to be formally ratified by the EU.
The Committee on Legal Affairs (Juri), Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE) and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) will each vote on the crucial concerns surrounding the proposals.
While the agreement covers the counterfeiting of physical items, such as pharmaceuticals, it is the measures relating to pirated material on the internet that have caused most concern among campaigners.
The agreement suggests setting international standards over how copyright infringements are dealt with. Preventive measures include possible imprisonment and fines.
The three committees will issue judgements on the possible impact of the treaty on the trading rights of the European Union; the human rights impact on citizens, and the possible effects on related industries.
The controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is back under scrutiny as the European Parliament prepares to carry out a series of key votes
The outcomes will influence the decision of the International Trade Committee (INTA) which will vote on 20-21 June to determine the formal recommendation on ACTA to the European Parliament. INTA’s appointed rapporteur on ACTA, David Martin, has strongly condemned the treaty.
In April, David Martin said: “The intended benefits of this international agreement are far outweighed by the potential threats to civil liberties.”
Rapporteurs advising LIBE and ITRE have also recommended rejecting the treaty, concurring with David Martin’s comments.
However, Marielle Gallo, who has advised Juri, has said she is not against the agreement.
The INTA vote will heavily influence the final decision on ACTA by the European Parliament. This vote is expected to take place on 2 July.
If it passes, the agreement will then come into force across the EU. If rejected, ACTA will be scrapped entirely.
The treaty has provoked discontent across the world since an initial draft was released by Wikileaks in 2008.
Open-rights campaigners argued the measures were being debated in secret.
Across Europe thousands of protesters demonstrated to voice their objections to the agreement.
The treaty’s backers have said it would not alter existing laws, and would instead provide protection for content creators in the face of increasing levels of online piracy.
Nevertheless, the proposals have encountered a slew of objections.
In February, the European Commission referred the matter to the European Court of Justice to judge on whether ACTA complied with human-rights laws.
This process was expected to delay ratification proceedings, but members of INTA voted to go ahead with pre-planned timetable.
Euro MP Kader Arif, who resigned from his post as rapporteur for ACTA in January, said he did so in protest at the “masquerade” of negotiations.
Meanwhile, several countries distanced themselves from the agreement, including Germany and Poland, where large protests took place.
Most recently, lawmakers in the Netherlands urged rejection of the treaty over fears that it breached the country’s constitution.
The UK, which signed the treaty in January, said it still backed ACTA.
Outside the EU, the treaty also has the support of the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.
Euro MP David Martin has said the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) should be rejected by the European Parliament.
David Martin, the British MEP responsible for its report on ACTA, said the treaty threatened civil liberties.
His comments came less than three months after the previous rapporteur, Kader Arif, resigned from his post in protest at the plans.
To date, 22 EU member states have signed the agreement.
However, the treaty will need to be ratified by the European Parliament before it can be enacted.
David Martin has strongly advised that this ratification should not happen.
“The intended benefits of this international agreement are far outweighed by the potential threats to civil liberties,” he said in a written recommendation to the European Parliament.
“Given the vagueness of certain aspects of the text and the uncertainty over its interpretation, the European Parliament cannot guarantee adequate protection for citizens’ rights in the future under ACTA.”
Euro MP David Martin said ACTA should be rejected by the European Parliament
An early discussion paper for ACTA was made public by Wikileaks in 2008, and the treaty has caused considerable controversy since.
Earlier this year, thousands of protesters demonstrated in cities including Berlin and Warsaw to share their objection to the agreement, which critics say will stifle freedom on the internet.
The “real world” action was in addition to several co-ordinated online attacks on the websites of various governments across Europe.
Concern over the treaty was heightened further when the European Commission asked the European Court of Justice to rule on its legality. The decision is still pending.
Kader Arif, who resigned as the EU’s rapporteur for ACTA on 27 January, described the negotiations as a “masquerade”.
He said: “I condemn the whole process which led to the signature of this agreement: no consultation of the civil society, lack of transparency since the beginning of negotiations, repeated delays of the signature of the text without any explanation given, reject of Parliament’s recommendations as given in several resolutions of our assembly.”
Despite these concerns, the agreement has been backed by the majority of EU member states.
A debate on the EU’s adoption of ACTA is expected to take place in June.
The EU’s highest court has been asked to rule on the legality of ACTA, the controversial anti-piracy agreement.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been criticized by rights campaigners who argue it could stifle free expression on the internet.
European Union trade head Karel De Gucht said the court will be asked to clarify whether the treaty complied with “the EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms”.
The agreement has so far been signed by 22 EU member states.
The European Commission said it “decided today to ask the European Court of Justice for a legal opinion to clarify that the ACTA agreement and its implementation must be fully compatible with freedom of expression and freedom of the internet”.
Several key countries, including Germany and Denmark, have backed away from the treaty amid protests in several European cities.
The EU's highest court has been asked to rule on the legality of ACTA
ACTA is set to be debated by the European Parliament in June.
While countries can individually ratify the terms of the agreement, EU backing is considered vital if the proposal’s aim of implementing consistent standards for copyright enforcement measures is met.
As well as the 22 European backers, the agreement has been signed by the United States, Japan and Canada.
Karel De Gucht told a news conference on Wednesday: “Let me be very clear: I share people’s concern for these fundamental freedoms… especially over the freedom of the internet.
“This debate must be based upon facts, and not upon the misinformation and rumour that has dominated social media sites and blogs in recent weeks.”
However, Karel de Gucht went on to say that the agreement’s purpose was to protect the creative economy.
“[ACTA] aims to raise global standards for intellectual property rights,” he said, adding that the treaty “will help protect jobs currently lost because counterfeited, pirated goods worth 200bn euros are currently floating around”.
ACTA’s backers face strong opposition within the EU. Viviane Reding, the commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, took to Twitter to outline her worries on the treaty.
“For me, blocking the Internet is never an option,” she wrote in a statement.
“We need to find new, more modern and more effective ways in Europe to protect artistic creations that take account of technological developments and the freedoms of the internet.”
What is ACTA?
• The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is an international treaty aiming to standardize copyright protection measures.
• It seeks to curb trade of counterfeited physical goods, including copyrighted material online.
• Preventative measures include possible imprisonment and fines.
• Critics argue that it will stifle freedom of expression on the internet, and it has been likened to the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
• ACTA has been signed by 22 EU members, but is yet to be ratified by the European Parliament.
Martin Schulz, the current president of the European Parliament, has criticized the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
On German television network ARD, Martin Schulz said of the treaty: “I don’t find it good in its current form.”
Martin Schulz’s comments followed mass protests across Europe against the agreement.
Demonstrations took place at the weekend in various countries including Germany, Poland, UK and Romania.
Martin Schulz said that the balance between copyright protection and the individual rights of internet users “is only very inadequately anchored in this agreement”.
Supporters of the agreement insist it will not create new laws and is necessary to standardize copyright protection measures.
ACTA is set to be debated in the European Parliament in June.
Martin Schulz, the current president of the European Parliament, has criticized the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)
Although countries can individually enforce the agreement, the EU will need to play a role if the treaty is to be effective in enforcing intellectual property protection across several countries.
So far, the treaty has been signed by 22 EU member states.
However, Germany has held off from backing the agreement, citing the need for “further discussion”.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said his country would wait for “sufficient consultation” before ratifying, following huge protests and disruption to several government websites.
Earlier this month, Slovenia’s ambassador to Japan, Helena Drnovsek Zorko, apologized for her “carelessness” in signing the treaty on behalf of her country.
Martin Schulz’s comments are a sign that ACTA is in “real political trouble”, according to Loz Kaye, leader of the Pirate Party UK.
“One of the things that’s very interesting is that now the ACTA agreement is coming under fire from all sides,” he said.
“It’s becoming clear that European citizens are very concerned about this agreement. It’s hard to find anyone who is standing up for it right now.”
A spokesperson for the International Trademark Association said that ACTA offers a chance for the EU to “thwart” the problem of counterfeit goods.
“ACTA is aimed at counterfeiters and pirates involved with commercial scale activities on the Internet, not the general user,” the spokeswoman said.
“Too many criminals profit from selling counterfeit goods on the Internet at the expense of consumers’ health and safety.
“The trade agreement is an opportunity for EU officials to help thwart this problem, and they can do so by adopting ACTA and joining the international battle against counterfeiting.”
Politicians across Europe are starting to withdraw their support from the dangerous ACTA treaty. This weekend’s mass protest is our moment to bury ACTA for good. Click to join the day of action, in person or virtually — let’s win this!
In 24 hours, people across the planet are joining a global street protest to bury ACTA for good.
This week our massive 2 million ACTA petition caused shockwaves in Brussels, and we’ve just learned that Germany has put ACTA on ice and other governments are close to following suit. If Europe says no to ACTA, it dies! We’re at a tipping point — If enough of us join the protest tomorrow, we can secure our online freedom and end the threat of ACTA’s censorship nightmare.
Let’s turn out in thousands to protest or, if we can’t be there in person (most of the protests are in Europe), send messages of solidarity to our fellow citizens who are marching. Click here to use our map tool to find an event near you, or leave a solidarity message for marchers:
Our massive ACTA petition was personally delivered to leading EU politicians in Brussels this week as it grew to 2.2 million signers and beyond. The European Parliament is choosing their new point person on the treaty right now. Let’s make sure that person realises that ACTA is too hot to handle.
Four Eastern European governments and now Germany have just said they’ll stall their decision on the treaty. Now, if hundreds of thousands of people attend thousands of rallies all across Europe tomorrow, we can ensure that all politicians across the 27 EU countries are put on notice that people don’t want ACTA and will continue to take action until the treaty is buried.
Those of us in Europe can join the protests. And we all can send messages of solidarity to encourage the people there and use social media to pile the pressure on key parliamentarian. Click here to check out the action centre, and tell everyone.
Again and again, we’ve shown how people power can work. When our fundamental freedoms are at stake, and we act together, we can forge an unstoppable force that makes politicians turn away from the corporate lobbies, and work in the interests of all of us. Let’s do it again.
With hope and determination,
Alex, Alice, Pascal, Emma, Ricken, Maria Paz, Luis and the rest of the Avaaz team
Acta activates mass opposition (Euractiv)
Acta: Europe braced for protests over anti-piracy treaty (BBC) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16906086
Latest pact on internet piracy set to be derailed (Financial Times) http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/a52f57ec-533d-11e1-aafd-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1lzG5htN5
Czech Republic, Slovakia freeze anti-piracy pact (AFP) http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gguBSrXtQKnr0famyhxMlNK2plDQ?docId=CNG.956cc047c755305c8ad4580183554bcc.71
ACTA vs. SOPA: Five Reasons ACTA is a Scarier Threat to Internet Freedom
Act on Acta now if you care about democracy and free speech (The Guardian)
The secret treaty: Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and Its Impact on Access to Medicines