ACTA has received a knockout blow from the European Parliament as the majority of MEPs voted in favor of rejecting the controversial trade agreement, which critics say would protect copyright at the expense of freedom of speech on the Internet.
MEPs voted overwhelmingly against ACTA, with 478 votes against and only 39 in favor of it. There were 146 abstentions.
“In am proud to say that the highly controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will not come into force in the European Union,” the Treaty’s rapporteur in the European Parliament, David Martin MEP, wrote on his blog after the session.
Martin recommended that Parliament reject the treaty as it would not effectively tackle online piracy.
The anti-ACTA mood was strong among MEPs during the session, with some members holding banners reading “Hello democracy. Goodbye ACTA”.
The ACTA-killing vote came despite an attempt by supporters of the treaty to postpone the crucial vote at the Parliamentary plenary session on Wednesday. However, as Martin writes, MEPs “were able to build a strong majority and defeated the call for a postponement.”
“This is a historic day in terms of European politics,” he wrote. The European Parliament vote means that 22 European member states cannot ratify ACTA into their local sovereign law.
Earlier all five parliament committees reviewing ACTA voted in favor of rejecting the international treaty.
The European Parliament was supported by 2.8 million European citizens around the globe who signed a petition calling for MEPs to reject the agreement. Thousands of EU citizens lobbied for blocking ACTA in street demonstrations, e-mails to MEPs and calls to their offices.
“On July 4, Europe celebrates a day of independence from American special interests. Today, we stood up for our most basic rights against corporate giants, and won,” Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party , wrote.
“This is a huge victory for the citizenship, for democracy and for freedom online. We worked very hard for the last four years to achieve this,” Jeremie Zimmermann, a co-founder and spokesperson for civil advocacy group La Quadrature du Net, told RT.
In theory, ACTA could still come into force outside the EU, between the United States and a number of smaller states like Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea, where the treaty is widely supported.
ACTA was developed with the participation of a number of countries, including all those listed above and others since 2007. When the ramifications of the agreement came to wider public knowledge this year, a wave of protests hit several countries. The EU suspended the ratification of ACTA in February to reconsider it.
ACTA could still be revived in the EU if the European Commission, the bloc's executive body, calls for the agreement's implementation and wins a court decision over it.
However, non-EU countries will still be able to shape laws around the treaty's mandates, but ACTA will be significantly reduced without Europe's support.
ACTA “was wrong from the start” says Martin, adding that they “need to start again from scratch.”
The proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is aimed at protecting copyright over a wide range of industries.
ACTA would require signatory states to impose draconian restrictions on online privacy in the drive to eradicate content piracy and the sale of counterfeit branded goods through the internet.
The main focus of criticism was targeting the impact it would cause to internet freedom.