European Parliament Shoots Down ACTA

The 478 Members of the European Parliament (MEP) who voted against the ratification of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on 4 July held up “Hello Democracy, Goodbye ACTA” signs signifying their opposition to the highly controversial plurilateral agreement between member nations for the establishment of international standards on intellectual property (IP) rights enforcement.

The European Parliament waves goodbye to ACTA, shutting it down via 478 votes to 39, with 165 abstaining.

The European Parliament waves goodbye to ACTA, shutting it down via 478 votes to 39 --- with 165 sitting on their hands. (Image: MYCE)

Although the European Union (EU) and 22 Member States (MS) signed the agreement for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on 26 January, their respective legislative bodies still need to ratify the bill into law. The US joined Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea in signing the treaty on 1 October 2011.

Critics cite the secrecy surrounding the negotiations and discussions; the potential crackdown on generic medicines; the threat to freedom of expression and creativity on the Internet; as well as the possible intrusions to privacy. Some sectors point to parallels between the recently aborted SOPA and PIPA, as well as with TPP.

While there are numerous dissenting voices, one personality champions ACTA in the EU: Karel De Gucht. The EU Commissioner pushing for ACTA said he stands by his defiant statement made last week.

If you decide for a negative vote before the European Court rules, let me tell you that the Commission will nonetheless continue to pursue the current procedure before the Court, as we are entitled to do. A negative vote will not stop the proceedings before the Court of Justice.

De Gucht also said he might call for another vote on ACTA in the European Parliament — even after the EU Parliament shot it down, and he will find a way to make the bill stick using the following measures:

First, I would consider proposing some clarifications to ACTA. For example on enforcement in the digital environment. We could look at this in the light of the discussions you will have had on legislative proposals which the European Commission is set to put before the Parliament and the Council. Or for example, we could seek to clarify further the meaning of ‘commercial scale’.

Second, once we will have identified and discussed these possible clarifications, I would intend to make a  second request for consent to the European Parliament. Whether the Parliament will consider it under this legislature or the subsequent one, will be for you to decide.

Glyn Moody analysed De Gucht’s statements and pointed out that the commissioner was huffing and bluffing, because ACTA cannot be modified or “clarified” since it is already signed — but like a spoiled brat, De Gucht will not accept the European Parliament’s decision and wants to keep screaming his head off until he gets what he wants. As far as the EU is concerned, ACTA is dead in the water, according to EU parliamentarian David Martin. It might make more sense to split ACTA into two agreements: One on physical counterfeit products and the other on online piracy, according to Martin.