Today we have the result of the European Parliament’s vote on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). MEPs have voted decisively against the proposal, voting 478 against, 39 in favour, and a count of 165 abstaining MEPs.
Pushed by the notoriety of its American sister SOPA, ACTA has evoked a strong response from Internet users worldwide, and the threats posed to basic freedoms quickly resulted in a spread of outrage that was not limited to technology savvy persons, but has also gained widespread media attention. Today’s firm result, despite the influence of strong corporate interests, is the consequence of citizens being vocal and proactive in the campaign against the agreement, with both online and direct petitioning of MEPs and local TDs, and public demonstrations in many countries. This is a clear victory for Internet freedom, and the treaty can now be considered dead, at least in its current form.
Despite this blow, EU Trade Commissioner De Gucht has stubbornly outlined his intention to pursue the current proceedings with the European Court of Justice. Pending the ECJ’s approval of the treaty’s legal status, De Gucht sees a clear path to proposing some “clarifications”, before ultimately presenting the proposal to the Parliament for second consideration — a tactic we have seen before in Ireland with the Lisbon Treaty. However, the clear margin of today’s victory is highly encouraging, and we can be confident that the European Parliament will not respond to such proposals without the public’s backing, showing that democracy can work beautifully when paired with an informed public.
With the damaging effects of current IP laws becoming more pronounced, we are moving closer to a reform of this area of law. The attention that ACTA has gathered may ultimately help to shape this discussion and push us towards a more people-driven position that recognizes the need to protect the freedoms that citizens rightfully expect.