The European Parliament (EP) has voted overwhelmingly not to refer the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) for judicial review, but instead to strike while the iron is hot and vote on the treaty this June.
The EP's International Trade Committee voted 21 to five against referring the controversial treaty to the European Court of Justice (ECOJ), which had been scheduled to examine the text and see if it interfered with the existing rights and responsibilities of EU citizens.
The vote means that ACTA will now come before the EP in a straight vote in June, and a no vote would obviate the entire treaty.
"If ACTA dies in European Parliament, then it's a permakill, and the monopoly lobbies will have to start fighting uphill," blogged Rick Falkvinge, founder of the Swedish Pirate Party. "If ACTA passes, the same monopolists get tons of new powers to use, and close the door for the foreseeable future behind the legislators for a very necessary reform of the copyright and patent monopolies."
Falkvinge suggested that the European Commission had initially suggested the ECOJ review as a method of taking some of the wind out of protestor's sails, after a series of mass demonstrations against ACTA across the EU. The ECOJ review could have taken years, but instead he said the EU had ten weeks to satisfy the concerns of citizens or reject the treaty.
"The Commission and the rapporteur's tricks have been avoided," said Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for internet rights group La Quadrature du Net, in a statement, "and the Parliament can now proceed with its works on ACTA. MEPs will have to shed the light on the democratic and political issues raised by ACTA, such as the extra-judicial measures aimed at stepping up the repression of online sharing."
Pro- and anti-ACTA forces now have a clear deadline to work towards, and will be marshaling their forces to mobilize support. So far over two million people have signed a petition against ACTA, and the EP vote will determine whether Germany, Poland, and other EU states will ratify the agreement. ®