ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, has been roundly rejected in a vote by the European Parliament. Members of European Parliament voted 478 against ACTA, while only 39 voted in favour.
The key advocate of ACTA in the European Parliament, Christofer Fjellner, had requested a postponement of the vote until the European Court of Justice had ruled on whether the proposed agreement is compatible with existing EU treaties. That, however, was rejected and a substantial body of MEPs – 165 – therefore opted to abstain.
A number of countries across Europe had already rejected ACTA, although their opposition would have been irrelevant if the European Parliament had voted in favour and the agreement had been ratified by the EU.
The global agreement was intended to establish an international legal framework for combating counterfeit goods, generic copies of patented medicines and copyright infringement on the internet. One of its measures would include the creation of a new governing authority, similar to the World Trade Organization or the World Intellectual Property Organization.
The agreement was signed in October 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the US. It was due to be signed by the European Union, covering all the countries in the EU, following a vote by the European Parliament.
However, a global campaign against the treaty protested that the agreement would stifle freedom, particularly online.
"ACTA is intentionally vague," wrote the Economist. "But it is potentially draconian. Infringers could be liable for the total loss of potential sales (implying that everyone who buys a pirated product would have bought the real thing). It applies to unintentional use of copyright material.
"It puts the onus on website owners to ensure they comply with laws across several territories. It has been negotiated secretively and outside established international trade bodies (despite EU criticisms). This means it has ignored the views of other countries it will affect, chiefly emerging markets. Internet activists used to be dismissed as a bunch of hairy mouse-clickers with little clout. Not anymore."