Spurred by protests and by an online petition that garnered 2.8 million signatures, members of the European Parliament (EP) rejected a global agreement against online piracy that critics charged would unfairly penalize individual consumers who download copyrighted material for their own private use. By a margin of 478-39 with 165 abstentions, the EP on Wednesday voted against the Anti- Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which took four years to negotiate and had already been ratified by each of the European Union’s (EU’s) 27 member states. The groundswell of grassroots opposition throughout the EU against ACTA’s enactment mirrored a similar effort in the U.S. that effectively killed the Stop Online Privacy Act earlier this year. While film studios, publishers and copyright owners fought for ACTA’s enactment, Internet service providers and online firms such as Google warned that the agreement could make them liable for copyrighted content that is posted or shared illegally by website users. In remarks following the vote, EP President Martin Schulz observed that the EP concluded “that ACTA is too vague . . . raising concern about its impact on consumers’ privacy and civil liberties, on innovation and the free flow of information.” The European Commission (EC), which referred ACTA to the European Court of Justice earlier this year to determine whether the agreement would violate fundamental rights and freedoms, had recommended that proposals to update EU copyright law must be constructed in such a way as “to make sure that professional counterfeiters rather than individual consumers are targeted.” Arguing, “the question of protecting intellectual property does need to be addressed on a global scale,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht stressed that, notwithstanding ACTA’s defeat, “the need to protect the backbone of Europe’s economy . . . does not disappear.”
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European Parliament votes against anti-piracy agreement
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