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UPDATE Europe REJECTS Controversial ACTA Internet Copyright Treaty

Wednesday, Jul 4th, 2012 (12:01 pm) - Score 388

The European Parliament (EP) has officially voted to reject (478 in favour – 39 against – 165 abstentions) the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a treaty that threatened to toughen international copyright enforcement standards and make broadband ISPs more liable for the content they deliver; but will something similar replace it?

The international treaty, which for all intents and purposes is now dead in the water, is actually less of a problem for UK internet users, where equally controversial laws, such as the 2010 Digital Economy Act (e.g. Ofcoms new ISP piracy code), are frequently considered to be far more advanced.

But ACTA could still have provided a foundation for turning ISPs into a form of internet police force, which few would be equipped to handle. At the same time its rejection, which flowed on from protests and concern surrounding “the potential threats to civil liberties” of its worringly ambiguous clauses (ACTA Rapporteur, David Martin MEP), echoes similar fears with the UK’s DEAct.

Suffice to say that we’ve come a long way from November 2010, when the European Parliament initially described ACTA’s final text as a “step in the right direction” (here). Over a year after that the EU and UK joined with Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States in signing the treaty (here). How the tables have turned.

Parliament’s ACTA Rapporteur (Investigator), David Martin (S&D, UK), said:

My strong recommendation is that we reject the ACTA treaty. This time the devil is in the lack of detail. A vague text is dangerous and we cannot guarantee that civil liberties will be protected.”

Jérémie Zimmermann, Spokesperson for Citizen Rights Group La Quadrature du Net, said:

Beyond ACTA, we must stop this repressive trend which keeps imposing measures that harm the Internet and fundamental freedoms. Citizens must demand a reform of copyright which will foster online cultural practices such as sharing and remixing, instead of endlessly repressing them. The ACTA victory must be the beginning of a new era, in which policy-makers put freedoms and the open Internet –our common good– ahead of private interests.”

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group (ORG), said:

This is a tremendous victory for the movement, for democracy and for every European citizen that has demanded that their rights be respected.

ACTA must be abandoned. The Commission must drop its calls to try again.

ORG would like to thank the thousands of activists from the Uk that helped persuade MPs to stand up for democracy.”

Europe’s inability to implement ACTA is a significant blow that has devalued the agreement to a terminal level, yet it’s unlikely to be the end. David Martin MEP has already called on the European Commission (EC) to “come forward with new proposals for protecting intellectual property” (here). At an extreme the EC could even re-table it before the EP but that’s unlikely to hold much water unless significant changes are made first.

A similar push is also beginning to take shape within the G8 and G20 countries, albeit mostly focused on the supply of drugs and related medical issues. The principal idea here appears to be that if you strip out the most contention elements, which can be pushed through individually and at a more local level (e.g. the UK DEAct), then the rest should pass without too much difficulty. It might take longer but the end result could be the same or worse than ACTA’s original design.

UPDATE 1:37pm

The EuroISPA and its members have also welcomed the European Parliament’s decision and its call for a more balanced approach in the protection of the fundamental rights at stake when the EU negotiates international treaties.

Malcolm Hutty, President of EuroISPA, said:

EuroISPA believes any international agreement should be negotiated openly, involving all the different stakeholders with the aim of promoting the legal certainties needed by the European Internet industry to develop and compete internationally.”

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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