Tens of thousands protest across Europe against ACTA

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A demonstrator braving freezing temperatures and snow, wears a Guy Fawkes mask during a protest against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in Bucharest, 11 February, 2012. Photo Radu Sigheti/Reuters

Tens of thousands of protestors across Europe braved sub-zero temperatures and took to the streets to slam ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) and warned their governments not to legalise the international agreement that curbs internet freedoms and encourages surveillance.

More than 2,000 marchers in central Berlin, braving -10 degrees Celcius cold, carried banners that read”Stop ACTA!” and denounced renewed measures to impose Internet dictatorship.

“It’s not acceptable to sacrifice the rights of freedom for copyrights,” Thomas Pfeiffer, a leader of the Greens party was quoted telling Focus magazine’s online edition.

However, agreement supporters are opposing any alteration in existing laws and instead it will provide protection for content creators in face of increasing levels of online privacy.

Legislators of the ACTA Act insist it aims to harmonise key elements of intellectual property law around the worldand protect the rights of those who produce piracy-prone products like books, music, movies, pharmaceuticals etc.

The treaty has been signed by the 22 EU member states, including the UK, but the European parliament is yet to ratify the bill. This debate is due to take place in the month of June.

We dont feel safe anymore. The internet was one of the few places where we could act freely, said Monica Tepelus, 26 yr old programmer told reporters in Bucharest, Romania.

Countries like US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea have already signed the agreement last year. However, not all EU countries have signed up to the agreement. On Friday, Germany delayed signing the agreement under the statement given by spokesperson, give us time to carry out further discussions.

Protests in Eastern Europe are getting stronger and stronger day-by-day. Many people are comparing the protest with Big Brother style surveillance used by former Communist regimes.

According to the Open Rights Group executive director, Jim Killock, the German stance over ACTA shows that it is being carried out secretly by the EU bureaucrats.

Three member states in Europe are now looking like they dont want to sign. That shows that politicians are not really starting to look at this now. All of a sudden, the whole thing is breaking down,he told in an interview.

The point today is to say ACTA are undemocratic. Its lacked scrutiny, its setting up dangerous new pressure to censor the internet to remove users and put pressure on internet service providers to start policing for copyright,Killock added.

THE TREATY

Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is an international treaty aiming to standardise copyright protection measures. It seeks to curb trade of counterfeited physical goods, including copyrighted material online.

Under ACTA, there will be some preventive measures that include possible imprisonment and fines. However, there are some critics who feel that it will steal freedom of expression on Internet and has been also linked with SOPA.

Many countries including Gulf will come under this act, which will create more stir on it. This act does not entirely define the Intellectual Property Passing any sort of loose definition into law is dangerous as it does require subjective interpretation and is open to abuse.

However, the UKs Intellectual Property Office has maintained ACTA should not mean new laws to Internet usage. Baroness Wilcox, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Business, Innovation and Skills, told the BBC: It was important for the UK to be a signatory of ACTA as it will set an international standard for tackling large-scale infringements of Intellectual Property Right through the creation of common enforcement standards and more effective international cooperation.

During the negotiations, we continually pushed for greater transparency as we believed that this would lead to better understanding of the agreement by the public, he added.

Sources: Reuters, BBC, blottr.com

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