This is a day of celebration.
This is the day when citizens of Europe and the world won over unelected bureaucrats who were being wooed and lobbied by the richest corporations of the planet.
The battleground wasn’t some administrative office, but the representatives of the people – the European Parliament – which decided in the end to do its job beautifully, and represent the people against special interests.
The road to today’s victory was hard and by no means certain.
478 against, 39 in favor and 165 abstentions
What lead us here?
Six months ago, the situation looked very dark. It was all but certain that ACTA would pass unnoticed in silence. The forces fighting for citizens’ rights tried to have it referred to the European Court of Justice in order to test its legality and to buy some time. But then, something happened.
A monster by the name of SOPA appeared in the United States. Thousands of websites went dark on January 18 and millions of voices cried out, leaving Congress shell-shocked over the fact that citizens can get that level of pissed off at corporate special interests. SOPA was killed.
In the wake of this, as citizens realized that they don’t need to take that kind of corporate abuse lying down and asking for more, the community floodlights centered on ACTA.
The activism carried over beautifully to defeat this monster. Early February, there were rallies all over Europe, leaving the European Parliament equally shell-shocked.
The party groups turned on a cent and declared their opposition to ACTA in solidarity with the citizen rallies all over the continent, after having realized what a piece of shameless mail-order legislation it really was, to the horrors of the corporate shills who thought this was a done deal. Those shills tried, tried hard, tried right up until today, to postpone the vote on ACTA past the attention of the public and the activists.
Alas, they don’t understand the net. And there’s one key thing right there: the net doesn’t forget.
Parliament members right after the vote
But the key takeaway here is that it was us, the activists, that made this happen. Everyone in the European Parliament are taking turns to praise all the activists across Europe and the world for drawing their attention to what utter garbage this really was, not some run-of-the-mill rubberstamp paper, but actually a really dangerous piece of proposed legislation. Everybody thanks the activists for that. Yes, that’s you. You should lean back, smile, and pat yourself on the back here. Each and every one of us has every reason to feel proud today.
What comes next?
In theory, ACTA could still come into force between the United States and a number of smaller states. Ten states have been negotiating it, and six of those need to ratify it to have it come into force. In theory, this could become a treaty between the United States, Morocco, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland. (But wait, the Mexican Senate has already rejected ACTA. As has Australia and Switzerland in practice. Oh well… a treaty between the United States and Morocco, then, in the unlikely event that the United States will actually and formally ratify it. You can see where this is going.)
As described before on TorrentFreak, without the support of the European Union, ACTA is dead. Doesn’t exist.
The European Commissioner responsible for the treaty, Karel de Gucht, has said that he will ignore any rejections and re-table it before the European Parliament until it passes. That’s not going to happen. Parliament takes its dignity very seriously and does not tolerate that kind of contempt, fortunately. This is something relatively new in the history of the European Union’s democracy – the first time I saw Parliament stand up for its dignity was during the Telecoms Package, where the Commission also tried to ram through three-strikes provisions. (Instead, Parliament made “three strikes” schemes illegal in the entire European Union.)
That said, many of the bad things in ACTA will return under other names. For the lobbyists, this is a nine-to-five job of jabbing against the legislation until it gives way. Just another day at work. We need to remain vigilant against special interests who will return again, again, and again, until we make sure that the legislative road for them is completely blocked. We must remain watchful.
But not today.
Today, we celebrate a job extraordinarily well done.
Today, on July 4, Europe celebrates a day of independence from American special interests.
Today, we stood up for our most basic rights against corporate giants, and won.
Congratulations to all of us, and thanks to all brothers and sisters on the barricades across the world who made this happen.
(This article is also posted on falkvinge.net.)
About The Author
Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.
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