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European Parliament begins final vote on ACTA

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After months of political maneuvering, the European Union Parliament began its session on the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) Tuesday morning (afternoon in Europe).

As might be expected, both pro- and anti-ACTA forces pulled no punches in the days leading up to the vote.

Activists across Europe, who say that ACTA will essentially police Internet users worldwide to stop copyright infringement, embarked on a furious campaign to call their respective Members of Parliament (MEPs). David Martin, the British MEP who officially advises the EU on ACTA, noted that he’d received almost 1,500 calls since Saturday.

“Difficult to think of another issue,” he tweeted.

La Quadrature, a French digital rights group, gathered 57 activist groups to sign a press release against ACTA. Signatories included the Electronic Frontier Foundation and similar groups from 20 countries in Europe.

On the other side of the aisle, the European People's Party, announced plans to try and delay the ACTA vote for more advice, which would likely take more than a year. Since all five of the EU committees to weigh in on ACTA have advised against signing it, a long delay is thought to be the agreement’s best chance of passing.

In his opening remarks to the Parliament, Martin said that "this is not a vote about the general importance of intellectual property rights, but about the ACTA treaty," noting "serious flaws and concerns on how ACTA could be implemented."

Experts say that though ACTA has been signed by a number of countries, including the United States, the agreement will be “dead” without the EU.

The EU's final vote is scheduled for Tuesday.

Photo by MEP Josef Weidenholzer