Pass the Dutchie from the left hand side: The Dutch ditch ACTA

LAWMAKERS IN HOLLAND have voted down the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which has attracted the ire of internet activists and been condemned by many as an impediment to free speech and the freedom of information.

Kicking ACTA into touch also saw Dutch MPs ruling that the Netherlands government will never sign any similar agreements in the future.

The move represents an emphatic no and according to many could be the beginning of the end for ACTA in the EU as the Dutch opted not to wait for the EU’s vote in June but acted on their own given the strong anti ACTA sentiment present in Holland.

Incorporating ACTA into the EU constitution is shaping up to be an epic battle. On one side are the anti piracy groups, the music studios, Hollywood and US lawmakers, while the other end of the spectrum is represented by numerous political activism and freedom of speech groups. Various EU governments remain caught in the middle. As ACTA wends its way through the EU Parliament, the UK Pirate Party, the Open Rights Group (ORG) and the French La Quadrature Du Net are already calling for more anti ACTA rallies.

The political tension surround ACTA’s progress through the EU parliament is only set to intensify as votes are gathered later this week in three of the committees responsible for offering their ‘opinions’ ACTA. These opinions could ultimately shape whether the EU Parliament embraces or rejects ACTA.

Designed as an international agreement aimed at protecting intellectual property, ACTA carries more than a passing resemblance to the equally controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was shelved by lawmakers amidst howls of protest throughout the US.

The EU has already suspended efforts to ratify the treaty in February when protest grew as activists raised the spectre of ACTA stifling free speech and access to information. Thousands participated in rallies across the EU and so far, 22 countries have signed up to the agreement, with a vote on its ratification due this summer in Brussels.

It’s already signed by the US, 22 EU member states, Australia, Canada, Japan and several other countries, none of the signatories have ratified it. This last step would make the agreement viable and once ACTA is ratified by any six nations, the convention is expected to come into force. PAT PILCHER

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