IT legislation

UK to take part in weekend protests against Acta

Warwick Ashford

Protests against the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Agreement (Acta) have been organised across Europe, with most set to take place on 11 February.

Last weekend, about 2,000 people marched in the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, and in January, thousands of people in Poland protested against Acta after the country and 21 other European Union states, including the UK, signed the agreement.

Following the protests in Poland, the country's prime minister, Donald Tusk, said he would hold off plans to ratify the agreement, admitting that the negotiation process "did not involve sufficient consultation".

In Europe, Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia, Cyprus and Slovakia have not yet signed the agreement.

Outside of the EU, the treaty has been signed by the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.

Acta 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.

Huge opposition to Acta

A petition calling for the rejection of the agreement has attracted more than 1.75 million signatures, according to the BBC.

Activism website stopp-acta.info lists more than 100 protests scheduled across Europe on Saturday, including events in London, Munich and Paris.

The Pirate Party UK is to join the international day of action against Acta, with protests planned for London, Glasgow and Nottingham, according to The Guardian.

"We saw what the combination of protest and political pressure achieved with the dropping of Sopa [the US Stop Online Piracy Act]," said Pirate Party UK leader Loz Kaye.

"But the threats to digital rights and civil liberties are not over. It's vital that we send a clear message that the people of Europe don't want Acta," he said.

Protection of IP rights

Supporters of the treaty argue that it should not create any new laws, and that the measures are necessary to clamp down on growing levels of piracy.

The UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has backed the measures, describing piracy as a major global issue.

Signing Acta is important for the UK, the IPO said, 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.

But UK-based privacy campaigner Big Brother Watch has called for a parliamentary debate on Acta, arguing that the treaty had been signed in "secret".

The treaty cannot be enacted before it is ratified by the European Parliament after a debate scheduled for June.


Image courtesy of Liako on Flickr


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