July 4 (Bloomberg) -- European Union lawmakers rejected a global anti-piracy treaty, stalling the bloc's approval for the accord aimed at preventing counterfeiting worldwide.
The European Parliament voted 478-39 with 165 abstentions today to reject the treaty, the parliament's press service said.
"The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was rejected by the European Parliament and hence cannot become law in the EU," the parliament said in a statement from Strasbourg, France.
The agreement, known as ACTA, is intended to set global rules for cracking down on the pirating of copyrighted materials, including illegal file sharing on the Internet. Protesters in European countries including Germany have complained that the treaty may harm freedom of expression and information sharing online.
Some 2.8 million people signed a petition asking the parliament to vote against the treaty, the parliament's press service said, describing a campaign of "unprecedented direct lobbying."
The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, tried to soothe concerns that the accord may alter EU law on punishing copyright infringements by asking the EU courts to rule on whether it violates fundamental rights.
"Today's rejection does not change the fact that the commission has committed itself to seeking answers to the questions raised by the European public," EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a statement. "The commission will continue to seek the legal opinion of the European Court of Justice on whether this agreement harms any of the fundamental rights of European citizens, including freedom of speech."
In addition to the EU, signatories include the U.S., Japan and South Korea. The accord must be ratified by all 27 EU governments before it can come into effect.
Germany's government was at odds with national lawmakers over ACTA, the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper reported in February. Bulgaria refused to ratify ACTA in February pending a clear EU position on the accord. Finland also postponed its final approval on the treaty until the EU had ruled, the government said in March.