The European International Trade Committee this morning has voted to defeat ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). The vote was reportedly going to be close, but ultimately, the vote confirms a string of past defeats in past committees and is now bound for the European Parliament.
All eyes have been on Europe for the past few weeks as the union figures out how to deal with the secretive agreement ACTA. The results could not only shape how this agreement is treated in other countries around the world, but also affect how future secretive agreements such as the more extreme TPP (Trans-pacific Partnership) could be treated on the world stage. While the final vote for ACTA is scheduled for early next month, this vote is seen by some as critical for determining the future of the agreement. Today, we found out the results of a key vote in the European International Trade committee and that was to continue the long string of setbacks the agreement faced by being the fifth committee to reject the agreement. From the BBC:
MEPs on a key European parliamentary committee have voted to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta) by 19 votes to 12.
Many regard it as the deathblow for the controversial treaty because the trade committee formally recommends how to vote to the wider parliament.
Speaking after the Inta vote, he said: “This was not an anti-intellectual property vote. This group believes Europe does have to protect its intellectual property but Acta was too vague a document,” he said.
He said that it “left many questions unanswered”, including the role of ISPs in policing the internet. He also said that many on the committee felt that the sanctions for breaches of copyright were “disproportionate”.
Earlier reports suggested that the vote was going to be close. In fact, lobbyists such as the MPA (Motion Picture Association) called criticisms aimed at ACTA as nothing more than “false arguments”. In a last ditch effort to save ACTA in committee, the European Trade commissioner urged MEP’s to not reject the agreement. Unfortunately for supporters like the aforementioned, it just wasn’t enough. No doubt this latest development is a stinging loss that threatens to upset carefully laid out plans to change around copyright laws more to a handful of multinational corporations as part of a wider effort to control the Internet.
Meanwhile, it is likely that millions of Europeans are now celebrating their latest victory against draconian laws that could have limited their very freedoms. Now that all five committees have rejected ACTA, momentum is finally in their favor to put an end to an agreement that was so widely objected to and protested against both online and on the streets in the union.
Of course, while the battle may be won here, the war is not over yet. As we mentioned in a previous article, the final and decisive battle still must be fought in the European Parliament. That vote will be the one vote that could ultimately put an end to ACTA. Currently, the vote is scheduled for July 3. That’s just two weeks away and not a lot of time to prepare for a final push to kick ACTA out of Europe. While it is the scheduled day of vote, the vote could be moved as there are efforts by some parties to have the vote held back as MEPs (Member of European Parliament) until they hear from the European Court of Justice on whether or not ACTA violates the fundamental rights of European citizens.
While all indications point to a massive defeat in the European Parliament, last minute lobbying and deal making could pull a surprise upset and see ACTA squeak by. The chances of that happening may be slim, but already, there have been rumors that there will be a request for a secret vote so some MEPs could vote for ACTA without the backlash of their voters. It may be a sign that nothing is guaranteed in this long debate about copyright and privacy.
For now, though, Europeans have won this critical battle and I’m sure there is reason to be optimistic as ACTA heads to the European Parliament.