Thursday, June 21 15:48:14
European lawmakers rejected the global Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) today, signalling the European Parliament may soon use new-found rights to derail an international agreement for the first time.
"This vote is the penultimate nail in ACTA's coffin," Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green politician in the legislature said.
The ACTA deal, in the pipeline since 2008, aims to reduce intellectual property theft by cracking down on fake consumer goods and medicines and digital file-sharing of pirated software and music.
The European Commission has said the agreement would target large-scale operations which enable illegal digital file-sharing, but the move has sparked furious protests from citizens and some governments who say it would criminalise people downloading files for personal use.
A handful of EU countries, including Germany, have held off signing the agreement while many have expressed concerns about its impact on their citizens.
Lawmakers said the cross-party vote is a signal the legislature will reject the ACTA in a final vote on July 4, the first time the European Parliament has written off an international agreement since an increase in its powers in 2008.
"This is about much more than just ACTA. It's about the European Parliament acting as an independent and democratic institution," said Joe McNamee from European Digital Rights lobby, EDRi. The 31-member trade committee in the European Parliament agreed the proposed agreement risked criminalising individuals who download files like music or films from illegal torrent websites.
The European Commission, which negotiated the deal on behalf of the EU, has asked the highest European Union court to decide if ACTA dents people's privacy. A ruling could take up to a year. Politicians in the parliament have begun debating the relevance of music copyright in particular.
Artists, like Radiohead, who have accepted the prevalence of music file-sharing, let fans buy their 2007 album "In Rainbows" from their website for a price of their own choosing. (C ) Reuters