Anti-ACTA protests in Zagreb, Croatia
Artists fighting for the right to protect their intellectual property and income have been dealt a severe blow, after European nations opted to vote out an international anti-piracy trade agreement, known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
The proposed agreement, which Australia has co-signed, was ultimately rejected following concerns raised that it would significantly limit internet freedom and sparked street protests across Europe.
Supporters raised the argument that the ACTA would help protect European ideas which are so often responsible for the economic growth of European nations, and that it was a necessary method of protection to protect those who most often become victims to piracy and intellectual property theft. As we all know, the majority of these people are artists, who commonly suffer from the illegal sharing of their music, movies and literary work, without receiving any profit from the transactions.
Despite the raised concerns, opponents of the ACTA maintained that if it were to become a reality, it wouldn’t be long before internet censorship and spying would become the norm. According to anti-ACTA campaign director Alex Wilks, the agreement would have given companies permission to spy on ordinary citizen’s internet activities, and would have led to users being unfairly disconnected.
Mr. Wilks also seemed to be under the impression that the majority of copyright holders are large companies, and failed to mention that many individuals, such as musicians, writers and filmmakers will be negatively impacted by the decision not to implement this agreement.
"No emergency surgery, no transplant, no long period of recuperation is going to save ACTA," a member of the European Parliament from Scotland David Martin said
"It's time to give it its last rites. It's time to allow its friends to mourn and for the rest of us to get on with our lives."
Eight countries who have signed the agreement include the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea, although it is interesting to note that none of these countries have yet ratified it.
Within the European Parliament, only 39 voted in favour of the agreement, with 478 voting against and 165 abstentions. Despite the obvious opposition to the agreement, EU Trade Commissioner Karel Du Gucht has stated that he will continue to fight for the agreement to be passed, citing plans to have Europe’s highest court determine the matter.
"It's clear that the question of protecting intellectual property does need to be addressed on a global scale — for business, the creative industries, whether in Europe or our partner countries," he said
"With the rejection of ACTA, the need to protect the backbone of Europe's economy across the globe: our innovation, our creativity, our ideas — our intellectual property — does not disappear."
Although the future of the ACTA looks very bleak, there has been some question whether the implementation of the agreement would have truly benefited the artists and companies who are so often privy to intellectual property theft. Despite the ACTA being formally accepted in eight countries, the agreement will not come into force unless six of the countries ratify it, which they have so far failed to do. This suggests that even if Europe had accepted the agreement, it would not have had the desired effect of protecting the copyright and intellectual property of artists.
Furthermore, although the contents of the ACTA have remained mysteriously under wraps, it just may be that the agreement does not strike a good balance between protecting intellectual property and protecting internet freedom. Until this balance can be found, it is unlikely that victims of intellectual property theft will be able to claim any kind of victory.