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European Parliament votes on fate of Acta

Warwick Ashford

A plenary session of the European Parliament is scheduled to vote today to decide the fate of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta) in the European Union (EU).

The US-backed treaty is designed to crack down on intellectual property theft worldwide, including online piracy and trade in counterfeit goods. But all the indications are that European politicians will reject Acta, which will kill the treaty in Europe.

In June, four key parliamentary committees voted against adopting Acta, including the influential International Trade Committee.

The lead member of the committee, UK MEP David Martin, said Acta was too vague a document to become law. 

The trade committee's vote is believed to be indicative of the result of the European Parliament’s vote, which Martin predicted would go against by 2:1.

Critics say Acta would lead to a censorship of the internet and result in extreme penalties for online file-sharers.

Another major area of contention has been the fact that a number of European member states signed up to the proposals, without the European Parliament being consulted during the treaty negotiation process.

In May, Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, admitted the legislation was effectively dead, following a number of protests against the bill in the UK, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands.

“We have recently seen how many thousands of people are willing to protest against Acta, which they see as constraining the openness and innovation of the internet," Neelie Kroes told a conference in Berlin.

To date, 22 European member states have signed the treaty, including the UK, but it cannot be enacted if it is not ratified by the European Parliament.

Non-European countries that have signed the treaty include the US, Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea.

If today's vote goes ahead and European politicians reject Acta, there is still a chance the treaty could survive, according to reports.

In a speech to parliament last month, European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said whatever the result of the vote, he intends to wait for the Court of Justice ruling on Acta.

Should it be judged legal under current European law, de Gucht said he will resubmit the treaty to parliament.


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