The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which had been called “more dangerous than SOPA,” at one point had support from many governments around the world, including the U.S., the UK and Japan. For this, back in January, 22 European Union states, and the EU itself, signed the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) treaty. But a strong public movement against ACTA, a law that can lead to severe restrictions on freedom and civil liberties on the Internet, raised the awareness of its dangers. After some governments decided not to ratify the agreement, members of the European Parliament finally rejected the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement on Wednesday.
This was the first time where the European Parliament exercised its Lisbon Treaty power to reject an international trade agreement. Beyond the EU and 22 of its member countries, eight other countries – the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea – signed the ACTA agreement. But, lobbying against ACTA was high. The European Parliament even received a petition which was signed by almost 3 million people asking for the agreement to be rejected. The final vote in the European Parliament was actually one-sided. 478 MEPs voted against ACTA, 39 MEPs voted in favor of ACTA and 165 MEPs abstained to vote.
The MEP supporters had mentioned that ACTA was needed to standardize the different national laws that protect the rights of those who produce music, movies, pharmaceuticals, fashion goods and other products and often fall victim to piracy and intellectual property theft. But on the other side, opponents feared the treaty would lead to censorship and snooping on the Internet activities of ordinary citizens. Alex Wilks, who directed the anti-ACTA campaign for the advocacy group Avaaz, said that the agreement would have permitted private companies to spy on the activities of Internet users and would have allowed users to be disconnected without due process. In addition Wilks said that the agreement did not properly balance the rights of private citizens and those of copyright holders/companies, though their ranks also include individual authors and musicians of modest means.
Jim Killock, executive director of the UK’s Open Rights Group (ORG), said, “This is a tremendous victory for the movement, for democracy and for every European citizen that has demanded that their rights be respected.”