The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), was rejected by the European Parliament today and now cannot become law in the EU. This was the first time that Parliament exercised its Lisbon Treaty power to reject an international trade agreement. 478 MEPs voted against ACTA, 39 in favour, and 165 abstained.
ACTA aimed to achieve the global enforcement of intellectual property rights by establishing shared international standards on how countries should act against large-scale infringements of intellectual property rights. The UK's position was not to create new intellectual property rights, laws, or criminal offences through ACTA, and that ACTA should be consistent with the WTO TRIPS Agreement.
Counterfeiting and piracy of intellectual property rights is recognised as a global issue. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that the international trade in goods infringing intellectual property rights accounts for more than 150 billion GPB per annum. ACTA was negotiated by the EU and its member states, the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland to improve the enforcement of anti-counterfeiting law internationally. Wednesday's vote means that neither the EU nor its individual member states can join the agreement.
"I am very pleased that Parliament has followed my recommendation to reject ACTA" said rapporteur David Martin (S&D, UK), after the vote, reiterating his concerns that the treaty is too vague, open to misinterpretation and could therefore jeopardise citizens' liberties. However, he also stressed the need to find alternative ways to protect intellectual property in the EU, as the "raw material of the EU economy".
Some observers had argued that ACTA, like most proposed solutions to copyright infringement, was all stick and no carrot. It focused on punishing offenders rather than encouraging innovative ways of doing business that account for the new realities of the global economy. All of which effectively makes the treaty a nonstarter for two-thirds of the world's population.