A European MP has resigned after thousands of people in Poland protested against the international
anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA).
The protests erupted after Poland and 21 other European Union states, including the UK, signed the agreement.
Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia, Cyprus and Slovakia did not sign the agreement last week, and one French MEP quit the scrutiny process for ACTA, complaining that the European Parliament was participating in a charade, according to The Guardian.
The agreement is aimed at improving the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) by setting international standards for dealing with copyright infringements, but critics believe it will lead to censorship of the internet.
The UK's Intellectual Property Office has backed the measures, describing piracy as a major global issue, according to the BBC.
Signing ACTA is important for the UK as it will set an international standard for tackling large-scale infringements of intellectual property rights through the creation of common enforcement standards and more effective international cooperation, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) said in a statement.
“Importantly, it aims to improve the enforcement of existing IPR laws, not create new ones," the IPO said.
The treaty cannot be enacted before it is ratified by the European Parliament after a debate scheduled for June.
But Kader Arif, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for ACTA, resigned in protest against EU officials pushing ahead with the agreement before the debate.
Opponents of ACTA in Poland said the government signed the agreement without carrying out sufficient public consultation on the issue.
Arif condemned the whole process which led to the signing of the agreement, for its lack of consultation and transparency.
Polish and other EU officials claimed ACTA will not change EU laws or the rights of internet users and internet usage.
Ahead of the signing, hacktivists attacked Polish government websites in protest at its intention to sign up to ACTA.
The Polish protests coincided with calls by advocacy group La Quadrature du Net for opposition to ACTA in the same way that stalled controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the US.
Darrell Issa, a US senator strongly opposed to Sopa, said at the World Economics Forum in Davos
that ACTA is more dangerous than Sopa.
"It's not coming to me for a vote. It purports that it does not change existing laws. But once implemented, it creates a whole new enforcement system and will virtually tie the hands of Congress to undo it,” he said.
Outside of the EU, the treaty has been signed by the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.