The European Parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), thereby preventing any of the 27 European Union member-states from ratifying it into law.
The ACTA was rejected by the parliament in a 478 to 39 vote, with 165 MEPs abstaining. It marked the first time that European Parliament exercised its Lisbon Treaty power to reject an international trade agreement.
Under EU Treaty articles 207 and 218, most international agreements require the European Parliament's consent to enter into force in the 27-member bloc. Further, all such agreements have to be ratified by the EU member-nations before they can be enforced.
ACTA's rejection by the European parliament marks a significant victory for those who oppose the measure. Thousands have been demonstrating against the ACTA across the EU and the world, claiming that the pact amounts to internet censorship and curbs freedom of expression.
While debating on the pact, the European Parliament had experienced unprecedented direct lobbying by thousands of EU citizens calling for the rejection of ACTA. In addition to street demonstrations against the measure, the Parliament also received a petition, signed by 2.8 million citizens worldwide, urging it to reject the agreement.
The ACTA is aimed at establishing international standards for enforcing intellectual property rights and covers music and books as well as products including pharmaceuticals and designer items. The pact has already been signed by the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea as well as the EU and 22 of its member states.
However, most of its signatories have not ratified the pact so far. The ratification of the pact by its signatories is essential for it to be viable. EU members-states that failed to sign the ACTA included Germany, Cyprus, Estonia and the Netherlands.
The ACTA has some similarities with the highly disputed Stop Online Piracy Act in the US, which was set aside by American lawmakers in January after popular websites including Wikipedia and Google suspended their services either fully or partially for a day in protest.
by RTT Staff Writer
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