Back in January, 22 European Union states, and the EU itself, signed the controversial ACTA treaty, which many argued could lead to severe restrictions on freedom and civil liberties on the Internet.

Whilst protests did follow, and many a debate did rage, it has taken until today for the European Parliament to finally reach a decision on whether to reject or approve the proposals. And the good news, for many at least, is that in a 478 to 39 vote, it has been thrown out.

What is ACTA?

ACTA stands for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trademark Agreement. It is a voluntary agreement between nations that covers a broad range of counterfeit goods, both physical and digital. However, for fans of the World Wide Web, it stirred up controversy for both the secretive ‘behind-closed doors’ way in which it was drafted, and the effect it could have on our online lives.

The Stop Acta campaign argued that the agreement would make ISPs liable for copyright infringements carried out on their networks, leading them to introduce surveillance technology to monitor their customers’ online activity. A ‘Three strikes’ policy would also be forced upon Internet users, blacklisting them from ISPs after a series of warnings if they were found to have shared files illegally.

So with SOPA killed by protest in the US, and ACTA dead in the water due to unpopular demand, will this herald in a new era for Internet freedom, an era that also seeks to protect the rights of content producers? Maybe, just maybe.

However, consider this. As we’ve seen with the Newzbin 2 case in the UK, it’s not as though extra powers were needed to force ISPs into blocking certain sites. This was illustrated, too, with the Pirate Bay case. So we likely will still continue to see restricted freedoms enforced through the courts across Europe, it just won’t fall under the ACTA banner.

Feature Image Credit: Horia Varlan | Flickr