There was tension and drama in the European Parliament today, as three committees today gave the thumbs down to ACTA. An attempt by the EPP to subvert the Civil Liberties vote under the cloak of a technical change was firmly rejected. This is not the final vote, but it gives a strong indication of the European Parliaement position.

Voices were raised and tempers were short in Civil Liberties committee. They were arguing about an amendment from the EPP group, Amendment 37, that sought to postpone the plenary vote on ACTA.

Amendment 37 would have sent ACTA back to the European Commission for clarification of the ambiguities. It would have been neither a rejection nor consent to ACTA, but would have ensured that the matter was taken out of the political arenea in the short term, and that the plenary vote would be put on hold.

The text of Amendment 37 was:

Calls therefore on the Commission and on Member States to provide solutions for the concerns identified in this opinion, so as to address ambiguities in ACTA and ensure that the strict observance of fundamental rights and freedoms is clearly guaranteed

The EPP argued that Amendment 37 was a technical change.

But others strongly disagreed. The Dutch MEP Sophia In T'Veld, spoke forcefully:

"This is not technical at all because it goes to the core of the issue.. for a series of reasons, I am strongly opposed to this".

German Liberal MEP Alexander Alvaro, suggested there had been cloak-and-dagger tactics: " Amendment 37 is put out as a technical change. I believe it is content disguised as a technical change'.

It further emerged during the Civil Liberties committee meeting that a change had been made to the voting list, apparently at the request of the EPP, that (from what I can gather) would have favoured Amendment 37, and risked denying the committee the opportunity to vote on other amendments, according to Sophia In T'Veld.

The rapporteur, Dimitrios Droutsas, indicated that Amendment 37 had been a covert move: "If you want to say 'yes' to ACTA, do it openly, and don't try to hide it' he said.

Carl Schlyter, Swedish Green MEP, accused the proponents of Amendment 37 of 'dirty tricks'.

The report was voted, and Amendment 37 rejected. The Civil Liberties committee opinion, recommending a rejection of ACTA , was adopted with a landslide majority of 36 to 1.

The Legal Affairs committee voted on the opinion by Marielle Gallo, that had recommended to give consent to ACTA. It was evident before the vote that the was divided, and that there were strong opinions held.

The chair, Klaus-Heiner Lehne, wanted to have the vote by show of hands. It was not clear what happened, but it seemed that some members were not happy with this, and he changed it to an electronic vote.

The Legal Affairs committee ACTA vote was 10 in favour, 12 against, 2 abstentions.

As the chair had explained, a vote against the Gallo opinion, was effectively a vote that the committee did not agree to ACTA. It means that the report will have to be amended to reflect the Committee's majority opinion. Therefore the Legal Affairs committee will officially recommend rejection of ACTA.

After the vote, Marielle Gallo, sweetheart of the rights-holders, was visibly displeased. She asked for her name to be taken off the report. This is usual practice when a committee rejects a rapporteur's opinion. The Legal Affairs committee will find a replacement rapporteur to take the report to the plenary.

The third committee to vote today was the Industry committee, and the Opinion of Swedish Pirate Party MEP Amelia Andersdotter. In spite of Ms Andersdotter's obvious political position against ACTA, her Opinion had to take account of the position of the committee as a whole, and it had to consider ACTA from a viewpoint of industry and free movement of trade. The Andersdotter Opinion recommended a rejection of ACTA, and was adopted by a majority ( as reported by La Quadrature du Net).

There are two further committees to vote before the plenary. I've always said the ACTA vote will not be straightfoward, and I maintain that view. We will see what other tricks are pulled out of the Parliamentary bag.

If you want to learn more about the European Parliament committees and how they work, see my book The Copyright Enforcement Enigma

This is an original article from You may re-publish it under a Creative Commons licence, but you should cite my name and provide a link back to Media and Academics - please cite asMonica Horten, Committees give thumbs down to ACTA despite dirty tricks, 31 May 2012 . Commercial users - please contact me