'Last rites' for ACTA? Europe rejects anti-piracy treaty

The European Parliament has voted to overwhelmingly reject the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA), following an all-parliamentary vote today.

The controversial treaty is intended to harmonise anti-counterfeit and copyright-protection measures across all EU member states and other signing countries, including the US and Australia.

The parliament logged 478 votes against, and only 39 in favour. There were 146 abstentions.

The vote in the European Parliament means that the signing 22 European member states cannot ratify ACTA into their local sovereign law. However, non-EU countries will still be able to shape laws around the treaty's mandates, although ACTA's scope will be significantly reduced without Europe's backing.

To date, 22 of the 27 European member states have signed the treaty, including the UK. Germany, however, has yet to subscribe to ACTA, following its foreign ministry calling for a delay to the signing process.

The politician charged with investigating the treaty, rapporteur David Martin, took over from Kader Arif, following his resignation in protest earlier this year. He was the first to recommend that the European Parliament should not accept the treaty, firing off a chain reaction of similar rejections.

Martin said yesterday: "It's time to give [ACTA] its last rites."

In late May, three major European Parliament committees voted against ACTA: LIBE, the civil liberties committee; JURI, the legal affairs committee; and ITRE, the industry and energy committee.

EU trade committee INTA also rejected the ACTA in a vote three weeks later, sending the strongest signal yet to the European Parliament to reject the treaty.

ACTA stirred further controversy in June, when EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a speech that the commission would nonetheless press ahead with the treaty, should it fail to pass the European Parliament.

In the speech, Karel also hinted that the treaty could be reintroduced at the next parliament in 2015, should it be rejected in the current one.

Earlier this year, protests erupted on Europe's streets and parliament buildings alike in opposition to ACTA.

At one point during the early negotiation process, ACTA specifically targeted illegal file sharers, and included the implementation of widespread website-blocking systems, such as those seen in Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

Such particularly controversial elements of ACTA were eventually eliminated from the final text of the treaty.


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