Controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement proposals rejected by European Parliament


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The Independent Online

Internet freedom campaigners are celebrating after a controversial international agreement, which would have forced internet service providers to hand over details of people suspected of online copyright infringement, was rejected by the European Parliament.

Today’s ‘no’ vote effectively means the end of the road for the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA), which has seen thousands of people protest in the streets across Europe.

European Parliamentarians voted overwhelmingly against ACTA, which was originally written-up in secret and given to various internet firms under non-disclosure agreements. The draft was leaked by insiders and only later published, causing yet more criticism.

The proposals, which include countries outside of Europe, were drawn up to protect copyright holders online, creating a separate international body to police it. It was signed by the European Union and was due to come into force once six EU nations ratified it.

Today’s rejection leaves the Agreement “dead in the water”, opponents, who denounce ACTA as an “attack on internet freedom”, say.

Many related it to the equally controversial US bills SOPA and PIPA. The Pirate Party was among the most prominent opponents. Its leader Loz Kaye called the vote “a triumph of democracy over special interests and shady back-room deals”.

He said: “This is a significant victory for digital rights. I’m pleased the MEPs have listened to the millions of people who contacted them and came out on the streets to protest against ACTA, instead of being misled by the empty promises of industry lobbyists.”

“This must signal a start for a new way of doing politics. No more should international agreements be negotiated behind closed doors and simply rubber stamped by parliaments. Policy must become something that happens with the people, not to the people.”

In April, the European Data Protection Supervisor said ACTA, which proposed removing legal safeguards which ensure that internet service providers are not responsible for the actions of their customers; effectively forcing them to comply with draconian demands from copyright holders, could have “unacceptable side effects” on individual rights.

“A right balance between the fight against IP infringement and the rights to privacy and data protection must be respected. It appears that ACTA has not been fully successful in this respect,” the Supervisor said.

Earlier that month, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on ACTA said it did not “guarantee adequate protection for citizens’ rights”.