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Anti-Counterfeit Law Hits Turbulence in Europe

The European parliament may have effectively killed or at best rendered impotent a major anti-counterfeiting and digital piracy treaty after legislators overwhelmingly voted down the agreement on Wednesday.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was initially signed last October by eight countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United States. The full text of the agreement essentially stressed the negative impact of counterfeiting and piracy of goods on the global economy and established steps for curbing IP theft. Further, the agreement noted that “effective enforcement of intellectual property rights is critical to sustaining economic growth across all industries and globally.”

It would therefore seem like a good agreement to enforce, right? Not exactly. Some wordings in the agreement, combined with the fact it was negotiated privately by government officials and seemed to target digital freedom, rubbed many people the wrong way and mobilized EU legislators against it. Opponents fanned anger against it on the belief that the ACTA would curb Internet freedom.

The EU vote wasn't even close. More than half of the legislators voted against the treaty. Of the 478 parliamentarians, 39 agreed to uphold the treaty, 146 abstained, and the remaining 293 voted to reject the agreement. The crushing blow means the treaty is unlikely to go ahead. Although it can be implemented by the current signatories, the absence of 27 European nations would turn it into a North America- and Pacific states-only agreement, leaving out a chunk of the globe and making enforcement difficult.

8 comments on “Anti-Counterfeit Law Hits Turbulence in Europe

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    July 5, 2012

    A similar intent was stopped dead in the US as well. An effort to curb and prosecute copyright and patent infringement conducted on Websites received a lot of negative publicity in the US. The concern was it gave government too much latitude in shutting down questionable sites. Sounds like a similar situation — we want government to protect our IP but we don't like the way they go about it. Not sure I have a solution, but it's a question worth asking every time it comes up.

  2. bolaji ojo
    July 5, 2012

    The French might have miscalculated and killed the treaty. In France, a law that would ban someone from using the Internet after three “strikes” is now in effect and many who opposed the treaty thought this could spread in Europe. How do you ban someone from using the Internet when it's on smartphone, tablet PCs, vehicles and even on some white goods like fridge?

  3. bolaji ojo
    July 5, 2012

    Chinese counterfeiters must be tickled. The governments that came up with this treaty had a good idea but, naturally, they allowed companies to display blatant self interest that made it clear it wasn't about protecting the consumer or assuring the safety of the supply chain.

  4. prabhakar_deosthali
    July 6, 2012

    As internet pervades our daily lives with all things( having some kind of an intelligence)  getting connected world over we cannot keep it unrestrained in the name of digital freedom. Individual governments must exercise their right in censoring web publishing, web based e commerce and all such things to discourage illegal trades, counterfeiting and piracy.

    Sooner or later all governments will understand and comply.

  5. Barbara Jorgensen
    July 6, 2012

    Good points, Bolaji. Self-interest over consumers…shocking. Or possibly private enterprises don't trust government?

  6. bolaji ojo
    July 8, 2012

    Prabhakar, Many people will question your trust in government to “do the right thing always,” while others would say we have to be vigilant to ensure the government does not curb our rights. The two sides have to strike a balance here.

  7. Susan Fourtané
    July 11, 2012

    Bolaji,

    “How do you ban someone from using the Internet when it's on smartphone, tablet PCs, vehicles and even on some white goods like fridge?”

    It's quite difficult. But also, should someone really be banned from using the Internet? 

    -Susan 

  8. bolaji ojo
    July 11, 2012

    I wouldn't suggest banning anyone from using the internet but there's a law like that already in place in France. Somebody there believes it's the right thing to do. While France may be the first Western nation to publicly have a law like this, it's not the only one with such a policy.

    The internet is not a right in many other countries and even in other Western nations (the U.S., for instance) judges have been known to ban hackers from access to computers for a fixed period. In essence, that would translate into a ban on using the Internet — of course, the internet can be accessed nowadays through a tablets/smartphones/gaming device/TV/wrist watch . . name it!

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