Millions of activists rallied across Europe in February to protest against a proposed law, which could potentially track their online activities. This law (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement or ACTA), if implemented, could punish people for sharing music and movies on the internet. To the relief of the protestors, the European Parliament has voted against ACTA on Wednesday , which means this law needs to be renegotiated by the European Commission.
Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament informed the press that the legislators were certainly not against intellectual property rights, but ACTA, in it’s current form, left room for abuses, and can have negative impact on the civil rights of consumers. It can also hinder free flow of information, Schulz added.
The European Parliament’s decision can bring about a lot of complications because the major trading partners of EU (like USA and Canada) have already accepted ACTA. So the initiatives to globally control illegal downloading of films and music will suffer a temporary setback.
How much does piracy cost the industry in Europe? It’s virtually impossible to estimate without spying on the consumers. However, people supporting ACTA argue that the decline in revenues in the recent years is a clear proof of growing piracy across the world.
The main criticism against ACTA is that it does not clearly distinguish between individuals who download files and people who use piracy on a commercial scale to make a living out of it. More than 2.5 million people signed a petition against the ACTA. It is expected that the European Commission will face similar resistance when they make efforts to reform the outdated law — IPRED (Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive).
It is relevant to mention here that the EC referred ACTA to the European Court of Justice, based in Luxembourg, to check if it breached freedom of speech. A decision from the court is still pending.