SOPA's big brother signed by EU nations amid widespread protests

Polish citizens take to the streets in protest at ACTA

The European Union signed up to the controversial Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on Thursday despite widespread opposition, particularly in Poland, where people took to the streets in protest.

The agreement was officially signed in Tokyo by 22 European member states. Cyprus, Estonia, Slovakia, Germany and the Netherlands did not sign, but committed to do so in the near future, according to the European Parliament's Green party.

The agreement seeks to enforce intellectual property rights and combat online piracy and illegal software. But opponents of ACTA claim it goes far beyond the U.S.' doomed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) legislation and encourages ISPs to police the internet without any legal safeguards. SOPA is being revised after receiving broad criticism.

The ACTA agreement, meanwhile, has been mired in controversy from the beginning due to secrecy imposed by the U.S. and worries that it may not uphold E.U. rules on data privacy. The most controversial paragraph in the final text leaves the door open for countries to introduce the so-called three-strikes rule, which would require Internet users to be cut off if they continue to download copyright material after receiving two warnings, as national authorities would be able to order ISPs to disclose personal information about customers.

Although the agreement has been signed, it still has to go through a ratification procedure in the E.U. But now, shortly after SOPA sponsors succumbed to pressure to revise the bill, digital rights groups and so-called hactivists are pushing hard for the European Parliament to reject ACTA.

More than 10,000 people have taken to Poland's streets to protest the signing of the international treaty while the Polish branch of hacker collective Anonymous has attacked Polish government websites, including the prime minister's office, leaving several sites paralyzed.

"In the last few days, we have seen encouraging protest by Polish and other E.U. citizens, who are rightly concerned with the effect of ACTA on freedom of expression," said Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net. "This important movement will further build up. Our governments are bypassing democratic processes to impose draconian repressive measures."

There has also been widespread criticism of ACTA within the Parliament. Pirate Party parliamentarian Christian Engstrom accused Polish Minister of Digitisation Michal Boni of lying to the Polish people in order to get ACTA signed. "Unfortunately, it appears that the Polish minister does not shy away from telling his citizens blatant lies, in order to get the controversial ACTA agreement signed," he said on Wednesday.

According to news site Global Voices, Boni said it was too late to back out of the agreement because all the other European countries had signed -- but at the time this was not the case. "It is apparent that the game of telling EU citizens whatever lies may be necessary to get the ACTA agreement signed has begun," Engstrom warned.

Green Member of the European Parliament, Ska Keller was also critical of the deal: "ACTA is wrong and should be rejected. The last word has not yet been spoken however: the European Parliament and national parliaments will now have their say as part of the ratification process."

Parliament's legal affairs, development, civil liberties and industry committees will give their opinions on the treaty in the coming weeks. These will be considered by the Parliament's International Trade Committee when it makes its final report to Parliament on whether to accept or reject ACTA. Finally the deal will go before a vote by all of Parliament.

Outside the E.U., the agreement has so far been signed by the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?