Finally, today we voted on ACTA in plenary. The result was expected and the trade agreement was voted down to the delight of many.
I personally fought, however, until the very end that we should await the ECJ’s opinion on the matter. This has not
been popular in all camps. But I really think it is irresponsible to take a final decision on such an important issue without having all the cards on the table. Much of the criticism against ACTA has been based on allegations that the agreement threatens basic freedoms and rights, privacy, and more. With that in mind, refusing to await the decision of Europe’s highest legal authority is beyond my understanding. Why? What are they so afraid of the court will say?
I therefore tried, in vain, to get Parliament to postpone the vote and return the agreement to the Committee on International Trade, awaiting the court.
Overall, I think it is sad that such an important issue ends up depending so much on the myth and lack of facts. Very little, if any, of what the netizens who have been influential in the debate claims that ACTA results in can be found in the text. And it is worth pointing out that illegal file sharing was illegal yesterday all across Europe and that today’s vote in no way change this situation. The ACTA agreement is only concerned with protection of intellectual property rights, not how such rights should be designed. It’s not about what should be legal or not, but how the law – whatever it looks like – should be observed.
And ACTA is about so much more than just the Internet. It’s about counterfeit medicines and patient safety. It’s about counterfeit aircraft parts, where the risks are obvious. It is about European innovation and jobs. Today, our main commodity is ideas, and the need to protect them globally should be obvious to everyone.
The Internet is just a very small part of ACTA, and nothing in the independent audits of government and EU experts have shown that ACTA would change anything in our online habits. Now we had no chance to get a definitive answer from the Union’s highest legal authority. No answer to what is are true and therefore I chose to abstain from the final vote on the agreement itself. I simply felt it was irresponsible to say either yes or no to ACTA at this time.
In the end, we have nothing. The problem of counterfeit and pirated goods remains and we will not get any answers to what might have been a problem with ACTA from a legal point
of view. For future negotiations on intellectual property, this is very much needed!
We need to have many more debates on intellectual property; to answer the questions that the ACTA vote leaves unanswered regarding the protection of intellectual property rights in a globalized world. But also to answer questions on reforms and modernization of intellectual property itself, to see that they really work properly in a digital environment, rather than hinder inovation and development.
My work with the ACTA agreement has been based on my honest and personal beliefs. I understand and respect many out there being of another opinion, but it surprises me when when my standpoint and my person is not accepted. At times the tone (although not from colleagues in this House) has been far from fair and even mixed with immediate threats. That is not okay!
And even though I really regret Parliament’s decision today, I must say that the commitment and interest around ACTA has been refreshing and uplifting! And believe it or not, I really think it’s been fun to work with this particular issue!
Because yes, we need to discuss a modernization of intellectual property, and this has been my position long before ACTA – and this idea has been strengthened during this process.
P.S. Anyone who wants to see the debate on ACTA and me taking on half the plenary =) can do so here. D.S.