Yes, activism works: European Parliament votes down ACTA by wide margin

Yes, activism works: European Parliament votes down ACTA by wide marginby Madison Ruppert

In a surprising and exciting move, the European Parliament refused to ratify the freedom-crushing Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) anti-piracy treaty by a massive 478 to 39 vote with 165 abstentions. According to none other than the Associated Press, the move came “after concern that it would limit Internet freedom sparked street protests in cities across Europe.”

This comes after the treaty was approved by every single one of the 27 EU heads of government in December 2011, but clearly the formal approval process wasn’t nearly as easy.

Unfortunately, the United States already signed ACTA in October 2011, which has already sparked claims from lobbyists that the rejection of the agreement make the EU “be weakened in free trade negotiations with the United States, Canada and emerging markets that are relative newcomers to intellectual property,” according to Reuters.

Essentially this means that other countries may continue to participate in ACTA even though the entire group of nations making up the EU is backing out of the same agreement they participated in negotiating.

Thankfully the false claims that ACTA “was needed to standardize the different national laws that protect the rights of those who produce music, movies, pharmaceuticals, fashion goods and other products that often fall victim to piracy and intellectual property theft,” were not able to trump the truth.

In reality, ACTA would enable, if not mandate, widespread internet surveillance, censorship, and potentially “allow for Monsanto to actually come after farmers in other countries for saving seeds, an offense that can actually result in up to $3 million in damages,” as I previously reported.

The eight nations which have already signed ACTA will be completely unaffected by the EU’s decision, unless of course the governments decide to respond to popular sentiment as well.

These nations include Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States.

Yet some are still claiming victory already, such as Scottish Member of European Parliament David Martin.

“No emergency surgery, no transplant, no long period of recuperation is going to save ACTA,” said Martin.

“It’s time to give it its last rites. It’s time to allow its friends to mourn and for the rest of us to get on with our lives,” he added.

Furthermore, writing for the Associated Press, Don Melvin stated, “The failure to ratify the treaty is a humiliation for the European Union, which was one of the prime movers in the multi-year effort to negotiate the agreement.”

Unfortunately some are not going to roll over as easily as Martin would obviously like. One such individual is Karel De Gucht, the EU’s Trade Commissioner.

“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,” De Gucht said.

De Gucht stated that the European Parliament’s clear decision will in no way change his plan to bring ACTA to the highest court in Europe – the Court of Justice – in order to determine if in the current form it would infringe on the rights of Europeans.

“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,” said De Gucht, indicating that he would decide what his next steps would be after the opinion from the European court comes down.

Some are seeing major future consequences, such as Ilias Konteas, Senior Adviser at Business Europe, a massive European lobbyist group representing 20 million companies across 35 nations.

“When the EU talks to China about intellectual property rights, they (China) will refer to the parliament’s rejection (of ACTA),” Konteas claimed. “I am afraid the unintended consequences have not been considered by members of the European Parliament.”

Although, De Gucht made similar claims like, “A vote against ACTA will be a setback for the protection of our intellectual property rights around the world.”

I personally doubt that any of these grim predictions will come to pass since file sharing really isn’t this monumental, megalithic and urgent problem they make it out to be.

The reality of increasingly open, legitimized, and legalized constant surveillance and internet censorship seem like much more important issues to me.

That being said, I find it quite exciting that some leaders, somewhere, are actually paying attention when the people get together and criticize government policies they do not agree with. It is not only our right, but it is our duty to constantly be scrutinizing government activities and speaking up when we see something out of place.

Thankfully at least one group of leaders somewhere in the world is taking a stand, now we just have to see if individuals in other nations will follow suit.

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