The European Parliament has defeated the international Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement, also known as ACTA, with a decisive 478 votes against the controversial treaty versus just 39 in favor and 165 abstentions. While 22 of the 27 European member states had already signed up to ACTA, the vote blocks the treaty from taking effect in those states, and will likely hurt its adoption around the world.
Supporters of ACTA argue that the treaty is needed to create international standards that protect those who produce music, movies, pharmaceuticals, fashion goods and other products against piracy and intellectual property theft globally. Opponents say it would hurt free access to information.
There's been a lot of misguided information going around about exactly what ACTA entails, due in large part because it was negotiated in extreme secrecy by a small group of wealthy nations. To shed some light on the matter, Ars Technica published a piece that separates the 'dubious' claims from the facts in February.
The agreement wasn’t expected to make any substantial changes to US or European law. However, once ratified, ACTA could be used by Western governments to convince or even strong-arm poorer countries into adopting stronger copyright protection and enforcement laws.
Countries including the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea have signed the trade agreement, and the EU vote won't affect them, though no one has ratified it yet.
A spokesman for the European Commission said ACTA may have another shot in Europe after the European Court of Justice weighs in on whether the agreement violates fundamental EU rights. But the overwhelming vote would seem to indicate that the agreement has no chance to be approved.
Image credit: European Union 2012 - European Parliament