The European Parliament has today voted to reject the controversial anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA). The vote was staggeringly one-sided, with 478 votes against, 146 abstentions, and just 39 in favor. The 'no' vote essentially ends any chance of ACTA coming into effect in either the EU or its individual member states. Today's vote marks the first time that the European Parliament has exercised its Lisbon Treaty power to reject an international trade agreement.
Karel De Gucht, the EU commissioner responsible for the treaty, has been quoted as saying that a negative vote would not stop the commission from pursuing "the current procedure before the Court." Although the European Court of Justice will still rule on whether ACTA is compatible with EU law, the fact that the European Parliament has voted against it essentially means that a new bill must be written. Those seeking to pass ACTA will have to clarify, tighten, and resubmit the bill for ratification.
"the treaty is too vague and open to misinterpretation."
David Martin, a UK-based MEP, says he is "very pleased" that the parliament has followed his "recommendation to reject ACTA." He reiterated his concerns that "the treaty is too vague, open to misinterpretation and could therefore jeopardize citizens' liberties." Martin stresses the need to find "alternative ways to protect intellectual property in the EU." Although much of the focus has been on data privacy and pirated goods, the broad language of ACTA worried a far wider demographic than digital rights campaigners. A spokesperson from the charity Oxfam provided the following statement:
"Today marks a real turning point, a victory for poor people over the interests of big pharmaceutical companies. ACTA could have made life-saving drugs much costlier for the world’s poorest, resulting in devastating consequences for their health. With Europe’s rejection, we’re now hugely relieved that ACTA is going nowhere."