ACTA is dead, but lobbying isn't over

After a drawn out will-they-won’t-they list of nations embracing, or rejecting, the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the European Parliament has officially rejected the proposal.

European Parliament used the Lisbon Treaty, for the very first time, to reject an international trade agreement. An overwhelming 478 MEPs voted against ACTA, while 39 were in favour. 165 abstained. 

ACTA has widely been regarded as a bill that would defend copyright holders but at the expense of public interest, privacy, and civil liberties. As such, it’s no surprise that groups such as the Pirate Party UK are considering the agreement’s failure a victory for the rest of us, while content industry-resistant mouthpieces such as TorrentFreak said that today should be a “day of celebration”.

With a small degree of bombast, TorrentFreak declared: “This is the day when citizens of Europe and the world won over unelected bureaucrats whowere being wooed and lobbied by the richest corporations of the planet”.

But hold your horses.

The article goes on to acknowledge that the nuances of the Agreement are just as likely to appear under another name, and that the European Commission has said it will work hard to push ACTA through regardless.

A European Parliament spokesperson told us that ACTA is, most definitely, dead. But, in a statement released to TechEye, the spokesperson said: “ACTA rapporteur David Martin and other MEPs have stressed the need for an alternative way to protect Europe’s intellectual property at international level, and expressed the hope that the European Commission would soon come forward with a different proposal in this field.

“Under the treaties,” the spokesperson continued, “only the European Commission has the right of legislative initiative – only it can draft and formally propose legislation – so you could say the ball is now in the Commission’s court”.

Overturning ACTA should be considered a small victory. It took the weight of the world wide web to publicise, publicise, publicise, until that public opinion was leaning so heavily against the proposals that supporting the Agreement would have been certain political suicide. Lobbyists with deep pockets will know this. Before the groupthink of the web puts the champers on ice, let’s look at the death of ACTA with a very cautious optimism.

Loz Kaye, Party Leader, Pirate Party UK told TechEye that it is about time for the Commission to “gracefully accept its mistakes in pushing ACTA, and resolve to be better at listening to the citizens of Europe”.

“Any legislation intended to protect intellectual property should properly balance the interests of rights holders and the public,” Kaye said. “It should intend to drive innovation and creativity, which doesn’t simply mean providing harsh restrictions on use and reuse, or imposing harsh penalties or privacy busting measures to clamp down on the sharing of culture”.

Kaye said that his Party wants to see “proportionality”: “We all know that copyright infringement and counterfeiting are not the same issue, for example,” he said. “Above all, and as with all legislation, it needs to be consulted on openly and achieve public consent”.

The Pirate Party UK, then, promises to keep a close eye on the going-ons of Europe and at home concerning this sort of legislation. 

According to Kaye, ACTA’s rejection was one step in the right direction, but it just a step.

“There are many existing threats and there will no doubt be new threats to innovation, development, and civil liberties, and we will do all we can to prevent such threats,” Kaye said.