Following a two-year wrangle between lawmakers trying to bolster the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and lobbyists protesting against the erosion of the rights of the individual to privacy and free speech, the European Parliament last week overwhelmingly voted against ACTA, paving the way for what many say will be internet piracy on an overwhelming scale.
Tens of thousands of activists held rallies across Europe in February to protest against the law, which they said would curb their freedom and allow officials to spy on their online activities. And around 2.5 million people signed a petition against ACTA.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz said in a statement after the vote that legislators were not against intellectual property rights but that ACTA left too much room for abuses and raised “concern about its impact on consumers’ privacy and civil liberties, on innovation and the free flow of information”.
However, many commentators are concerned that the rejection of ACTA will complicate free trade talks globally and lead to a rapid decline in music, the film industry and literature.
According to Ewan Morrison in the Guardian, “the ruling makes it impossible to sue Internet providers for copyright infringement on their own sites”. He goes on to say that currently 75 per cent of all material on YouTube is in breach of copyright.
But lawmakers are now hoping that they can use Canada’s EU Trade Agreement (CETA), which is almost formed, as a backdoor mechanism to implement the ACTA provisions.
The EU has also proposed incorporating ACTA’s criminal enforcement and co-operation chapters into CETA. The criminal provisions were the target of European Parliament criticism for their lack of proportionality and uncertain application.
As the European Commission said, any reform must define commercial scale to ensure that “professional counterfeiters rather than individual consumers are targeted.”