Anti-counterfeiting law voted down


EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT:THE EUROPEAN Parliament has voted against the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta) designed to enforce intellectual property rights and combat the trade of counterfeit goods.

The law had previously been approved by all EU countries, including Ireland, and a number of other countries including the United States, Canada and Japan. However, the European Parliament’s failure to ratify the process means that neither the EU nor its individual member states can join the agreement, casting doubt on the future of the treaty.

It is the first time the European Parliament has exercised its power to reject an international trade agreement, having gained the power with the Lisbon Treaty.

Acta has become a battleground between those calling for better protection of everything from music rights to medicines and those who believe the law would limit internet freedom and inhibit civil liberties.

As with the controversial US Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa), Acta has been the subject of vigorous public debate.

MEP David Martin welcomed yesterday’s outcome, arguing that the treaty’s lack of detail had been a major concern. “A vague text is dangerous and we cannot guarantee that civil liberties will be protected,” he said. However, he stressed the need to find alternative ways to protect intellectual property in the EU.

Yesterday, European commissioner for trade Karel De Gucht urged MEPs to vote for the treaty “A vote against Acta will be a setback against our defence of intellectual property rights across the world,” he said.

The European Commission is supportive of the treaty. Earlier this year the commission referred Acta to the European Court of Justice and had asked the European Parliament to wait for its conclusions before voting.

However, the European Parliament pressed ahead with the vote. A majority of its committees had already recommended MEPs reject the treaty.