The European Parliament has today sounded the death knell for ACTA – the controversial international trade agreement which threatens to impinge the freedom of electronic communication and innovation worldwide – by voting definitively to reject the Treaty.
The UK’s Green MEPs, Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor, have welcomed the outcome of this decisive vote in Strasbourg, which means that the Treaty will be blocked from becoming law in its current form in the EU.
Jean and Keith, alongside their Greens/EFA colleagues in the European Parliament, have been at the forefront of the campaign against ACTA, both for its content and in the way in which it has been drawn up. More than just a simple trade agreement to combat the proliferation of counterfeiting and privacy, ACTA broadens the scope of criminal sanctions for internet distribution and information technology, meaning people could be prosecuted for merely sharing a link to a newspaper article or for sharing a video on YouTube.
There are also concerns that ACTA could be used by pharmaceutical companies to effectively restrict access to generic medicines in developing countries. The World Health Organisation estimates that some 1.3 billion of the world’s poorest do not have access to essential, life saving medicines – a situation which could be exacerbated by multinationals seeking to stifle the trade in legitimate generic medicines.
Having been rejected by five Parliamentary committees, as well as by MEPs from across the political spectrum, ACTA will continue to be considered by the European Court of Justice as to its compatibility with EU law. EU Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, has suggested that the deal could be returned to the Parliament with amendments once the ECJ has given its ruling, which could grant a new lease of life to this heavy-handed and repressive treaty.
Speaking after the vote, Jean, Green MEP for London and a member of the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee, said: “I am delighted by the outcome of today’s vote, which hopefully will draw a line under the ACTA saga once and for all. It is right to say that EU copyright law does need to be urgently reformed to take account of the changed environment of the information society, but this requires a broad and inclusive consultation, rather than a shadowy, secretive negotiation process which seeks to suppress the civil liberties and fundamental rights of EU citizens.
“The European Parliament has today proven itself to be on the side of the hundreds of thousands of people around the world concerned about the dangerous implications of ACTA with regards to data protection and internet freedom – indeed, this vote is nothing less than a milestone for European democracy. I hope that the lessons learnt during this sorry chapter will act as a guiding hand to future political debate on intellectual property protecting in the digital age.”
Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England: “Many people have voiced their concerns to me and in the end I’m delighted that Parliament has listened to the people and voted to reject this heavy handed piece of legislation. My only regret is that not all MEPs supported this rejection of ACTA. While intellectual property must of course be protected, it’s also fundamentally important that in this day and age people are able to freely share information for non-commercial purposes on the internet without the fear of being criminalised.”
Notes to Editor
1. 39 votes in favour; 478 against; 165 abstentions.