EU throws out ACTA anti-counterfeiting treaty

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The EU has rejected the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), following massive public opposition.

While the treaty had been signed by 22 member states, it hadn't been ratified - and without EU ratification, it couldnt be implemented in national law.

But yesterday 478 MEPs voted against ACTA, with 165 abstentions and only 39 votes in favor.

There was a last-ditch effort to rescue the treaty, with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht threatening to keep on reintroducing it  if it were rejected. Even now, there's still a chance that it could rear its head once again, as the European Court of Justice has yet to rule on whether the treaty infringes human rights or not.

"The European Commission will continue to seek the legal opinion of the ECJ on whether this agreement harms any of the fundamental rights of European citizens - including freedom of speech. European citizens have raised these concerns and now they have the right to receive answers. We must respect that right," says 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 our partner countries. With the rejection of ACTA, the need to protect the backbone of Europe's economy across the globe: our innovation, our creativity, our ideas - our intellectual property - does not disappear."

ACTA was strongly supported by the US government, but has come under fire from civil liberties campaigners right from the start. While its supporters say it was designed simply to protect against the counterfeiting of everything from handbags to software, opponents claimed it opened the door to censorship and loss of privacy.

"This is a tremendous victory for the movement, for democracy and for every European citizen that has demanded that their rights be respected," says Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.

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