Digital Top Stories

ACTA protests take place

By | Published on Monday 13 February 2012

European Union

Protests took place across Europe this weekend against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, the previously reported global treaty that aims to harmonise some key elements of intellectual property law around the world.

As also previously reported, while ACTA has been controversial in some quarters since it was first conceived a few years back, in part because of the secrecy that shrouded some of the negotiations, opposition has become more vocal in recent weeks following the anti-SOPA/PIPA protests in the US, despite many countries having already signed up to agreement.

Those who oppose ACTA cite the main argument that appeared during the anti-SOPA protests, that the agreement will introduce draconian new copyright-enforcing laws that will hinder freedom of expression on the net. Though supporters of the Agreement in Europe argue that, unlike SOPA, which would have introduced new web-blocking measures in the US to combat piracy, ACTA won’t have any noticeable impact on copyright law in Europe, because European copyright systems already adhere to all the requirements set out in the treaty.

Although in theory a day of global protests, most of the anti-ACTA events took place in Europe, with marches in Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Estonia and Bulgaria perhaps most high profile. In the UK there was a smaller protest of about 200 people, according to the BBC, in London, though other protests did also take place in Glasgow and Nottingham.

The US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea all signed the Agreement last year, while the EU and most EU member states added their signatures last month. Though not all EU countries have signed up and some, in particular Slovakia and Germany, have now expressed reservations about signing the agreement without further consideration, while the Czech Republic, who did sign last month, are also said to be reconsidering their involvement in the treaty.

Among those protesting against ACTA in the UK this weekend were the Open Rights Group and The Pirate Party. Jim Killock from the former told the BBC: “Three member states in Europe are now looking like they don’t want to sign. That shows that politicians are only really starting to look at this now. All of a sudden, the whole thing is breaking down”.

However, the British government remained committed to the Agreement this weekend, with IP Minister Judith Wilcox telling reporters: “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 rights], 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 have led to a better understanding of the agreement by the public”.

Although the EU has signed ACTA, the Agreement is still to be approved by the European Parliament, providing those who oppose the treaty with a target date for their protests. The European Parliament is to discuss the IP agreement in June.