EU Parliament to Vote on ACTA Without Waiting for a Court Decision

Campaigners against ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) are hailing as a success the decision by the European Parliament's trade committee not to refer the deal to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The committee on Tuesday rejected a plan to send the proposed accord to the E.U.'s highest court by 21 votes to five. This means that the proposed deal could be put before the whole Parliament as soon as June, avoiding a possible delay of about 18 months for a court decision.

Digital rights groups opposed to ACTA, such as La Quadrature du Net, said that the plan to send the deal to the ECJ had been nothing more than a stalling tactic.

The European Commission, which brokered the controversial deal, has already referred the text to the ECJ in the hopes of receiving the court's backing. But if the Parliament as a whole decides to reject the treaty, it will be immaterial, as the E.U. cannot go ahead with ratifying the pact unless parliamentarians back it.

Under the proposed ACTA deal, a country may "order an online service provider to disclose expeditiously to a right holder information sufficient to identify a subscriber whose account was allegedly used for infringement." Anti-ACTA activists said that this would be tantamount to forcing ISPs to become the unofficial police of the Internet.

It was this fear that prompted a widespread Stop ACTA campaign that saw thousands of protesters take to the streets across Europe in recent months and caused many E.U. member states to delay or rule-out ratification, despite signing the deal individually in Japan in January.

Those protesters hope that a vote against the deal from the Parliament will be the final nail in ACTA's coffin and they may have grounds for optimism -- when the deal last went before the Parliament in November 2010, it was only very narrowly passed by 331 to 294, with 11 abstentions.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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