THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT has overwhelmingly defeated the international ACTA anti-piracy agreement, after fears that it would limit Internet freedom mobilized broad opposition across Europe.
The vote today was 39 in favor, 478 against, with 165 abstentions.
The defeat means that, as far as the EU is concerned, the treaty is dead — at least for the moment — though other countries may participate.
A spokesman for the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said it may try again after it obtains a court ruling on whether the agreement violates fundamental EU rights.
Supporters said ACTA — the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement — was needed to standardize international laws that protect the intellectual property rights. Opponents feared it would lead to censorship and a loss of privacy on the Internet.
Twenty-two of the 27 EU states - including Ireland – as well as other countries, including the United States and Japan, signed ACTA in January but the treaty has yet to be ratified anywhere.
The parliament ignored European Commission pleas that the treaty was needed to protect the economic interests of companies hit by counterfeiting and online piracy.
Members voted by 478 to 39 against the pact, with 165 abstentions, ignoring a last-minute call by conservatives for them to wait until the European Court rules on its conformity with European Union law.
The run-up to the vote, which followed the line of every parliamentary committee consulted on the pact, saw hundreds of thousands of people demonstrate against ACTA and 2.8 million sign a petition decrying it.
Labour MEP for Munster Phil Prendergast has hailed the rejection of ACTA today saying that:
This treaty lumped together anti-counterfeiting enforcement – literally a matter of life and death when fake medicines are used – and copyright enforcement, including on the internet, which are dealt with by different EU laws. We need to update these laws but there is no reason to tie our hands with this botched approach.
She’s called for a “truly modern copyrights regime fit for the internet era and the 21st century”.
-Additional reporting by AFP and Emer McLysaght