The European Parliament has delivered a resounding veto to the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
In my previous blog on ACTA, I wrote about the widespread opposition to ACTA on the grounds that it contains:
…vaguely worded provisions which could potentially allow internet service providers to monitor and disconnect repeat infringers and that it makes available unfair statutory damages for online music infringement to rights holders.
It could also have:
…given customs officers much greater powers to search and seize goods which are suspected of infringing intellectual property to prevent them from crossing national borders.
It will come as no surprise therefore that the European Parliament voted against ratifying ACTA on 4th July. The margin by which it was rejected, 478 votes to 39 (with 165 abstentions), is indicative of the unpopularity of this agreement.
What does the rejection mean?
It now means that none of the EU Member States can join ACTA. In truth, the veto will have little impact for the internal laws of many member states (particularly in Scotland and the rest of the UK) because most of the proposals set out in ACTA are already present in domestic and European law.
However, the rejection has more significance in terms of international enforcement and cooperation. ACTA aimed to allow greater cross border protection against intellectual property infringement and it would have allowed rights holders and customs officers enhanced powers in countries where those powers did not already exist.
Where now for ACTA?
The rejection of ACTA will be celebrated by its opponents, such as supporters of open rights groups but is this really the end for ACTA? Perhaps not.
Prior to the European Parliament’s vote, the Court of Justice of the European Union had been asked to rule on ACTA’s compatibility with European law. That decision will still be issued (irrespective of the European Parliament’s veto) and the EU Trade Commissioner will then discuss with the other international sponsors of the Agreement how ACTA will be taken forward, if at all.
ACTA could also still come into force in its current form in other sponsor countries if six members of the agreement ratify it. However, without the approval of the EU (and potentially the US) its impact will be much less forceful.
Nevertheless, this is likely be the end of the road for ACTA in its present form (certainly in the EU) as it would require wholesale modification before being re-submitted to the European Parliament.
Given the opposition to ACTA so far, perhaps it would be better simply to acknowledge the widespread unpopularity of the Agreement and consider alternative means of trans-national intellectual property enforcement.
On July 12, 2012