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Mass Demonstrations as EU Countries Sign on to Controversial ACTA Treaty

Over 20 EU states sign treaty yesterday

- Common Dreams staff

Yesterday 22 EU member states signed the controversial trade agreement known as ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

Protesters in Poznan, Poland, march during a demonstration against the ratifying of Acta. (Photograph: Marek Zakrzewski/EPA) According to the EUobserver:

EU countries sign unpopular anti-counterfeit treaty

The European Commission and 22 EU member states have signed up to a controversial trade agreement in a move marked by cyber attacks and street protests.

Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands and Slovakia were the only EU countries not to put pen to paper at the signing ceremony in Tokyo on Thursday (26 January) of the so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta).

The European Commission told EUobserver the hold-up is "purely procedural" and that they will come on board shortly.

The Guardian explains:

Acta is a far-reaching agreement that aims to harmonise international standards on protecting the rights of those who produce music, movies, pharmaceuticals, fashion, and a range of other products that often fall victim to intellectual property theft.

Acta also takes aim at the online piracy of movies and music; those opposed to it fear that it will also lead authorities to block content on the internet.

Wired UK adds:

Acta -- which is supported by many rights owners -- has been met with widespread criticism from open rights activists, who argue that the legislation has been rushed through the legal system under the guise of being a trade agreement, when in fact it is a new copyright law. They also argue that it blurs the distinction between piracy and counterfeiting and that it criminalises copyright infringement when there are civil sanctions already.

RT reports:

Thousands wage war against ACTAck on Internet

In order to become law, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement must first be voted in by parliament. In a bid to stop this from happening, the hacktivist group Anonymous has targeted official websites in the countries that have already signed it. They struck the Polish, French and Czech government websites, as well as the sites of the Irish ministries of justice and finance, the European Parliament, Ireland’s Innovation Minister Sean Sherlock and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Anti-ACTA sentiment reached the Polish parliament, too, where some opposition MPs put on Guy Fawkes masks to signal that they won’t vote for an agreement that has drawn so much criticism from citizens.

Anonymous is threatening that it will reveal sensitive information on officials, should Poland proceed with adopting ACTA. Prime Minister Tusk called the demos and hacker attacks “blackmail”.

After the signing, there were widespread protests in Poland as the BBC notes:

Thousands march in Poland over Acta internet treaty

Later on Thursday, hundreds of people took to the streets of the eastern city of Lublin to express their anger over the treaty.

Several marches had taken place in cities across the nation on Wednesday, says the BBC's Adam Easton in Warsaw.

Crowds of mostly young people held banners with slogans such as "no to censorship" and "a free internet".

The Guardian adds:

Poland's support for Acta has sparked attacks on Polish government websites by the hacking collective Anonymous that left several of them unreachable off and on for days. Street protests of hundreds, and in some cases thousands of people, have broken out across Poland for the past three days.

RT has video on the protests in Poland:

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In protest of what he saw as lack of transparency in treaty negotiations French MEP Kader Arif has resigned as rapporteur of the controversial anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA).

“I want to denounce as the greatest of all the process that led to the signing of this agreement: no association of civil society, lack of transparency from the beginning of negotiations, successive postponements of the signing of the text without any explanation being given, setting aside the claims of the European Parliament [despite those views being] expressed in several resolutions of our Assembly,” Arif said in a strongly-worded statement on his website.

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Techdirt notes this on how ACTA can affect public health:

There are serious health risks associated with ACTA, especially in the developing world. In this case, Europe pushed strongly to include patents under ACTA (something the US actually preferred to leave out). This has complicated matters for some countries. Under existing international agreements, countries can ignore pharmaceutical patents to deal with health emergencies. That is, if you have an outbreak and need a drug that pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to supply at a reasonable price, governments can break the patent and produce their own. That becomes much more difficult under ACTA, which could be a real threat to health around the globe.

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President Obama has already signed the treaty.

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