Three key committees in the European Parliament, covering industry, civil rights and legal affairs, voted against the U.S.-sponsored Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) this week, sending a clear signal that activists pushing lawmakers to reject the treaty have had a major and lasting effect.

Proponents of ACTA, which effectively exports U.S. copyright law to economies around the world, say it would standardize laws pertaining to markets for real and virtual goods and services, theoretically sending more real dollars to content creators and the industries they form.

Opponents, however, worry that in doing so, ACTA will require Internet service providers to police their users' activities and implement harsh restrictions to prevent the sharing of copyrighted multimedia. There's also some concern that copyright holders could use the new powers granted by ACTA to stymie competition and new technology, driving up costs of various goods and services, including generic drugs and other medical innovations.

It had originally been signed by 22 European member states, including the U.K., Spain, Ireland, Italy, France, Germany and Greece, but many of those nations have now put the treaty on hold following the rise of a massive protest movement demanding rejection of the deal and turnover in political leadership. ACTA was formally placed on hold by the European Parliament in February.

The three committees' decisions to reject the treaty come just days after the Dutch Parliament also voted against ACTA, saying that future legislation addressing Internet usage should focus on increasing the amount of legal content that can be accessed online. Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic have all voted similarly, and the new president of France has said he will resist the agreement as well. All European member states must vote unanimously in favor of the treaty for it to carry the weight of law.

ACTA was signed by U.S. President Barack Obama last year, and requires six other signatories to come into force. Outside of Europe, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore have all joined the treaty.


(H/T: Ars Technica)

Photo: European Parliament via Hadrian / Shutterstock/a>