Lib Dem Euro MPs have helped to swing a crucial vote in Brussels against a planned anti-counterfeiting law after strong opposition from civil liberties campaigners.

Phillip Bennion MEPThe European Parliament's important Industry Committee voted to reject the controversial Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) by 31 votes to 25 votes at their meeting yesterday on May 31st.

The agreement is supposed to prevent illegal downloading of films and music but the wording had raised fears from free speech campaigners that ACTA could be used by governments to crack down on ordinary internet users.

Commenting after the vote, West Midlands region MEP Phil Bennion said: "I had grave doubts about ACTA shared by a number of constituents who wrote to me about it.

"The more I looked into it the more it became clear that this could open the way to governments criminalising ordinary internet use.

"The vote today was close, with Conservative MEPs voting in favour of the agreement, despite the fact that ACTA had been widely criticised for threatening individual freedom.

"Piracy of copyrighted works is wrong but there are better ways to tackle the issue. ACTA tried to deal with many disparate forms of intellectual property in a single agreement which is highly inappropriate."

"I am pleased that we swung the vote in committee and added another vital nail to ACTA's coffin.

"As is so often the case in the European Parliament, Liberals and Democrats had the crucial swing votes to ensure the progressive side won the day.

"If the Commission come up with amendments we want to see them differentiate clearly between intellectual property rights on goods from protecting copyright on internet-based services."

Further votes on ACTA are due in the Trade Committee on June 21st and by the full Parliament in July.


Note to editors:

The Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) and the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) today also voted to reject ACTA by 12 to10 (in JURI) and 36 to 1 (in LIBE) votes. These are indicative votes ahead of the main vote which will take place on June 21st in the International Trade Committee (INTA), followed by the final plenary vote in July.

Below is a link to an article by UK Lib Dem group leader Fiona Hall MEP in which she discusses why the Liberal Democrats reject ACTA.