The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, has been rejected by the European Parliament's trade committee, the opinion of which is a major influence on the wider parliament.
INTA supported rapporteur David Martin's rejection of ACTA on Thursday morning by 19 votes to 12. Minutes before, the committee also voted 19-12 to ignore European Commission calls to postpone voting until the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has decided on ACTA's legality.
Trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said late on Wednesday that he would still ask the Parliament to reconsider ratifying ACTA when the ECJ ruling comes through in a year or two's time, even if the Parliament rejects the treaty at a plenary vote on 4 July.
"This was not an anti-intellectual property vote. This was a vote against the contents of ACTA," Martin said in a press conference after the vote. "We felt ACTA was too vague a document… There was no definition of commercial usage in ACTA… Many of us felt the sanctions ACTA contained for breaches of copyright were disproportionate."
"Citizens have been highly involved in this dossier. I hope that Parliament has responded adequately to their concerns," Martin added. "Not one person in the committee was able to put forward a position in favour of ACTA."
ACTA sets out an international copyright enforcement regime that the European Commission says would protect EU intellectual property overseas without changing any laws in the EU. Critics disagree, saying it would allow the criminalisation of individual file-sharers in the EU and introduce US-style damages assessments for infringement here.
The secretive drawing-up of ACTA's terms has also attracted criticism. Those opposing ACTA have generally characterised the treaty's referral to the ECJ as a delaying tactic, designed to head off its definitive rejection by the European Parliament.
If the Parliament rejects ACTA — as it is very likely to do — the treaty will be dead in Europe. The same result would come from a single EU member state failing to ratify the agreement. To date, not one member state has ratified ACTA.
Pirate MEP Amelia Andersdotter described the vote on Thursday as as an "epic moment for the European Union".
"It's the first time citizens have been heard in spite of industry and in spite of the Commission actively tampering with the voting systems in our Parliament," Andersdotter said at the press conference. "The lack of institutional respect in the treatment of [ACTA] in this parliament is actually quite extraordinary."