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Thursday, 5 July 2012

EU Parliament rejects ACTA

(c) C Lutz / AP
Readers of the IPKat will be well aware of the troubles the controversial Anti-Counterfeting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has gone through since the EU signed it last January, following unanimous adoption by the Council in December 2011 (see earlier posts here and here). 

A few weeks ago, as was reported by the IPKat, the international trade committee at the European Parliament voted to reject ACTA by 19 votes to 12, finding that, whilst the protection of IP should be ensured at the EU level, ACTA is too vague a document.
Although ACTA is currently pending before the CJEU, following the referral made by the Commission in April last, yesterday it was the turn of the European Parliament to reject ACTA, with 478 MEPs voting against ACTA, 39 in favour and 165 abstained.
As pointed out by the press release which has been made available after the vote, this was the first time that the Parliament exercised its Lisbon Treaty power to reject an international trade agreement.
David Martin
Rapporteur David Martin MEP (S&D, UK) was pleased with the result and stressed once again his concerns that ACTA is too vague, open to misinterpretation and has the potential to jeopardise citizens' freedoms. However, as reported by The Telegraph, Mr Martin also said that the debate around ACTA, which involved protests in some European capitals, had become "unnecessarily hysterical", as the Treaty has "never seriously proposed" a divisive "three-strikes and you're out" policy of disconnecting infringers from the internet, as is currently the case with French Loi Hadopi.
However, it may be too early to say that ACTA is clinically dead. Indeed, following yesterday's vote, EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht released a statement in which he made it clear that the European Commission would continue to seek the legal opinion of the CJEU on whether ACTA harms any of the fundamental rights of European citizens, including freedom of speech, as envisaged in the Charter of Fundamental Rights
In any case, said the commissioner,
Karel de Gucht
It's clear that the question of protecting Intellectual Property does need to be addressed on a global scale – for business, the creative industries whether in Europe or [its] partner countries. With the rejection of ACTA, the need to protect the backbone of Europe's economy across the globe: [its] innovation, [its] creativity, [its] ideas – [its] intellectual property – does not disappear ... The European Commission will take on-board the opinion of the [CJEU] and the issues raised across the European political spectrum. [It] will then consult with [its] international partners on how to move forward on this issue
According to well-respected Head of Department of
Diagnostic Medicine there is little that
can be done to save ACTA
However, as observed by msnbcyesterday's overwhelming vote of the Parliament seems to indicate that the agreement in its current form has no chance to be approved.  It is extremely unlikely that all 27 EU Member States would decide to go ahead with it and so allow the EU to become a party to the Treaty, even should the CJEU rule that ACTA is in line with EU fundamental rights.
In addition, things have changed at the level of national governments, too. Whilst in the US more liberal approaches are currently being discussed (see the debate surrounding the Global Online Freedom Act), in Europe new political scenarios have emerged. It is well-known that the position of new French socialist government as regards the protection of IP differs from that of Monsieur Hollande’s predecessor Sarkozy. Indeed, yesterday Hollande's government issued a statement in which it was made clear that "the European Parliament has buried once and for all the ACTA treaty ... For the French Socialists, the vote marks the first and foremost a new inter-institutional balance of power, with the active participation of citizens in the European debate."
Well, it seems that even if ACTA may not be clinically dead, its future does not look particularly bright anyway … 

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