ACTA Committee Defeat: Europeans Celebrate a ‘Victory for European Democracy’

It was building up for weeks, but after ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) was defeated by the European International Trade (INTA) committee, it became clear Europeans won a key battle over the agreement in the lead-up to the final vote in the European Parliament. Now, many are celebrating what one called a “victory for European democracy.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Even before the big committee vote, a moderator for a vidcast on the European parliament website commented that the level of interest for European politics was unlike anything he had ever seen. The one thing all panelists seem to agree on was that whether you were for or against ACTA, the level of participation and interest on the debate was very healthy. It’s not clear what was going through the voting committee members minds during the vote, but it must have been difficult to ignore the fact that the whole world was watching this key vote that could either slow opposition for ACTA or further add momentum for a final defeat in the European Parliament. I know I was certainly one of the many individuals that did tune in to the live video feed hoping to catch the vote live before time zones got the better of me and I had to find out the results later on.

Now, we know the results. The final vote was to recommend defeating ACTA. The Open Rights Group documented a blow-by-blow account of what happened during the committee:

As with previous committees, there was once again some drama involved (in the unlikely setting of a European Parliament committee room). Before the vote on MEP Martin’s opinion, amendments 1 and 2, which said the committee should recommend ACTA is supported, were withdrawn. MEPs then voted 19-12 against Syed Kamall MEP’s amendment, which would have seen the ‘plenary’ European Parliament vote delayed.

Initially the vote result was 19-13. That struck everyone as slightly odd, because it was one more vote than the number of MEPs elgiible to vote. That prolongued the tension. But the repeat vote gave us 19-12 against MEP Kamall’s amendment. (There’s more information about the amendments and what was happening this morning on our previous blog).

If you want to relive the committee session (who needs Euro 2012 highlights when you have INTA committee voting sessions on tap?) you can do so at the INTA committee’s site.

The Open Rights Group congratulated all those who contacted their MEPs on this matter, saying that it mage a huge difference in this vote.

Rick Falvinge, founder of the Pirate Party, commented on this development, saying that this latest victory means the score is now Internet: 5, Lobbyists: 0. From his comments:

There has been no shortage of stunts pulled that were, at best, questionable. Yesterday at 1800, the person responsible for ACTA in the European Commission (roughly the executive branch of Europe), Karel de Gucht, held a firebrand speech to the committee, telling them how to vote. He added that if Parliament votes the wrong way, he’ll just re-submit ACTA to the next parliament (!). He was rightfully scolded for that by some Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) later, showing an unacceptable level of disrespect for the separation of powers and for the democratic institution of Parliament.

So this morning, the INTA committee gathered for its vote. Some industry group had managed to put up a poster across the entire door, urging them to vote for adoption. This breaks a very long set of very bureaucratic rules and raised quite a few eyebrows. The room was filled to and over capacity — TV cameras were lining the walls, and people were standing in the back and along the sides, all seats being taken in the quite large room. INTA had 32 items on its agenda, starting at 10:00, and ACTA was last.


The amendment was defeated by 19-12, and the draft report recommending a rejection of ACTA was adopted by the same numbers.

Thunderous applause interrupted the session. WE WON!


In the press conference after the INTA session, the sentiment in the room was one of post-mortem. “Exactly where did this ACTA drive the crazy train off the nearest cliff?”. Even though the ultimate vote in the European Parliament plenary still remains, the vote some time July 2-5, the sentiment was clear: it’s over. (Hint: it’s actually not. Not at all. This is where we need to make our final push. Returning to that in tomorrow’s post.)

Everybody in the press conference reiterated at today’s vote would not have had this outcome without energetic and persistent activity from citizens, urging MEPs to oppose ACTA. Yes, that’s you: you should pat yourself on the shoulder here.

Another MEP, Marietje Schaake also commented on what happened:

MEP Marietje Schaake is delighted with the rejection of the controversial ACTA agreement in the committee for International Trade (INTA) in the European Parliament. INTA is the main responsible committee of the Parliament and it rejected ACTA with a majority of 19 MEP’s voting against the treaty against 12 MEP’s voting in favour. “With this vote my committee has given an important advice to the plenary vote in two weeks. The EU should reject ACTA”, says Schaake.

Internet freedom

Schaake has opposed the ACTA treaty since the beginning. “I’m doing my utmost to reject this undesirable treaty in the European Parliament. ACTA contains some troublesome provisions for policy areas such as internet freedom and access to medicines. By regulating several policy areas in one document, ACTA enforces laws in an undesirable and dangerous way.”

Schaake also reiterated the point that the fight over ACTA is not over because the European Parliament still has to vote against ACTA before the agreement is finally dead.

Cory Doctorow wrote a short piece on BoingBoing saying, “The European Parliament will vote in two weeks, and there’s some talk that the vote will be held in secret, which would allow MEPs to vote against all expert advice and the prevailing desires of their constituencies without fear of reprisals. If that happens, it will be a fitting end — a corrupt, unaccountable secret vote on a corrupt, unaccountable secret treaty.”

The UK Pirate Party also weighed in:

“Our objections to ACTA have been consistent. This treaty was discussed in secret and it diminishes privacy in order to protect outdated business models. It harms developing countries and unfairly favours the big players. It’s neither in our interests nor your interests; it’s not for your benefit, it’s not good for humanity.”

“Our opponents have attempted to portray us all as extreme or ill-informed. But the response of the EU committees show that we have been right all along. Today’s votes by the International Trade committee support that.”

“We will continue to fight against ACTA and any similar legislation, whether at the national or international level.”

Michael Geist commented, “Victory for European democracy and digital freedom! #ACTA rejected in main committee”

EDRI said, “Today, EU Parliamentarians in the INTA committee have heard the call for internet freedoms of a pan-European citizens’ movement!”

Telecomix said, “The packets are aligned, tubes are converging, #ACTA is defeated. This is the datastice, the beginning of Summer of #<3" AnonyOps celebrated, “WE WON! #ACTA TO BE VOTED IN JULY! 😀 THANK YOU, INTERNETS!!” Peter Sunde said, “Power is shifting. Not a single day goes by without any hacktivists being in the media. #Acta is proof. We’re coming for you, old farts.”

Tammer Salem commented, “European trade committee votes to reject #piracy treaty #acta […] Success!”

Reinhard Liesse said, “Major blow to #ACTA: Fifth and final EU parliamentary committee rejects agreement 2 weeks ahead of final vote”

Of course, this is just a small sample of what is being discussed right now. People are taking to Twitter to voice their approval of the latest decision of INTA. You can see these comments come in through the ACTA hashtag for yourself.

So, while this is only one victory in a long battle against the agreement, the significance of this particular victory was not missed. As mentioned by several people, the final vote is not scheduled for another two weeks. If ACTA is rejected in the European Parliament, it means that ACTA is officially dead in Europe. La Quadrature Du Net commented that citizens of Europe must remain vigilant until ACTA is fully dead. From La Quadrature Du Net:

“Considering how the European Commission and interest groups have kept ignoring the unambiguous stand of the majority of MEPs, one has to expect a new round of pressure and manoeuvres. Citizens must remain fully mobilized in view of the plenary vote.” declared Mélissa Richard, campaigner for La Quadrature du Net

“The way is now paved for a quick and total rejection of ACTA by the European Parliament! With a political symbol of such a global scale, the way will be open for copyright to be reformed in a positive way, in order to encourage our cultural practices instead of blindly repressing them. Let’s aim for this long-awaited victory and build our post-ACTA world! But let’s celebrate first!” concludes Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for the citizen group.

We will certainly do what we can to keep you up to date on the latest developments of ACTA on the lead-up to the final battle of ACTA.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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