European Parliament rapporteur quits in Acta protest

Acta protesters in Poland Mr Arif's resignation follows protests in several locations across Poland

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Negotiations over a controversial anti-piracy agreement have been described as a "masquerade" by a key Euro MP.

Kader Arif, the European Parliament's rapporteur for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta), resigned from the post over the issue on Friday.

He said he had witnessed "never-before-seen manoeuvres" by officials preparing the treaty.

On Thursday, 22 EU member states including the UK signed the agreement.

The treaty still needs to be ratified by the European Parliament before it can be enacted. A debate is scheduled to take place in June.

Mr Arif criticised the efforts to push forward with the measures ahead of those discussions taking place.

"I condemn the whole process which led to the signature of this agreement: no consultation of the civil society, lack of transparency since the beginning of negotiations, repeated delays of the signature of the text without any explanation given, reject of Parliament's recommendations as given in several resolutions of our assembly."

Mr Arif's decision to stand down as rapporteur - he remains an MEP - follows protests by campaigners in Poland. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets after the agreement was signed.

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

Earlier in the week, hackers attacked several Polish government websites, including that of Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

The country's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski defended the plans, telling local television: "We believe that theft on a massive scale of intellectual property is not a good thing."

'Legitimate demands'

Campaigners' concerns have been buoyed by Mr Arif's strongly-worded statement released on Friday.

"This agreement can have major consequences on citizens' lives," he wrote.

"However, everything is made to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade."

The treaty has caused controversy since an early discussion paper was published by Wikileaks in 2008 - two years after negotiations first began. The details were subsequently confirmed in 2010.

People took to the streets across Poland to protest against Acta

If ratified, it proposes to improve "the enforcement of intellectual property rights" in participating countries.

It suggests setting international standards over how copyright infringements are dealt with, with preventative measures including possible imprisonment and fines.

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

"Yesterday's signing of Acta is important for the UK as it will set an international standard for tackling large-scale infringements of IPR, through the creation of common enforcement standards and more effective international cooperation. Importantly, it aims to improve the enforcement of existing IPR laws, not create new ones," it said.


Darrell Issa, a US congressman and vocal critic of the stalled Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa), voiced his concerns about Acta at the World Economics Forum in Davos.

"As a member of Congress, it's more dangerous than Sopa," he said.

"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."

In addition to internet-based measures, the agreement also seeks to curb trade of counterfeited physical goods.

Past drafts of the treaty suggested that internet service providers would have to give up data about users accused of copyright infringement and might have to cut them off - although this segment of the agreement has since been removed.

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

In response to Mr Arif's resignation, a spokesman for the European Commission told the BBC: "Mr Arif and other members of the European Parliament's [Committee on International Trade] have had access to successive versions of the Acta text. The full text has been fully public since April 2010. It was made available in the first place because the European Commission convinced the other countries to publish this text.

"There have been four stakeholder conferences since 2008, and at least three speeches in the European Parliament on Acta. And now there will be a full debate. This is exactly what the normal process is.

"But most importantly Acta does not change any EU laws, it simply levels the playing field so that other countries match our standards. There is no threat to internet freedom or privacy. Everything you can do legally today in the EU, you would be legally able to do if Acta is ratified."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    In a world aiming at the postmodern age where the information is like money to capitalism,this law makes no change other than creating the base for another cycle of social stratification according to affluence,reserving improvement to upper social strata,throwing most of the others back into the dark age and ruining the progress we achieved.With it the EU is no better than the despots of Africa.

  • Comment number 75.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Last time I tried to buy a CD from Amazon USA, because I couldn't buy in the UK, I was refused the sale. I was prepared to pay the cost, including copy rights and postage but was refused. ???

    Not available here; refused a USA sale; so I got it elsewhere!
    You guess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    If they could turn it off they would.
    Having a free means of communication between 'the governed' which cannot be controlled must be driving them to distraction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    The economies in Europe are all teetering on the brink of recession but instead the politicians are worrying about copyright. Does corporate America have so much power that we bow to their every whim while ignore the real problems of Europe and the world. Is this legislation going to create more jobs for people no it isn't. It will make some wealthy people wealthier.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Breaking and entering citizens on-line date without their explicit permission may cause the backlash.

    Those that support ACTA may have their homes similarly broken & entered into under the pretence of looking for child porn, counterfeit goods, etc.

    Reasonable and moral karmic comeuppance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    ACTA already undermines liberty in its abridgment of freedom of speech, justice in its bypassing due process. It now has gone for a trifecta of evil, undermining democracy itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Democracy = in its purest or most ideal form would be a society in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.

    So where was the invite Westminster... or does the strings of Capitalism pull harder than the people's right?

    ACTA was thrown out in 2010 and it will hopefully be thrown out again. Time to send your MEP a very short letter to say NO TO ACTA!

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    It's time to stop having to defend our civil rights from big corporations and start taking them back!

    Vote Pirate Party

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    it's not about the piracy! acta is a gate in law. it can be used by any idiotic government [ large American corporations, insane or corrupt politics, lobbys ] to make everything what they want with our lives. and maybe it wouldnt happen, point is that thanks to acta it could!!! so .... acta!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Have you tried to get an official copy of the treaty? It's not on any official sites liek the UK government or EU Parliament. Yet it has been signed by both the EU and the UK (and load of other countries). Why is it not published? What are they hiding? When did we, THE PEOPLE ON WHOSE BEHALF THE POLITICIANS ARE SUPPOSED TO WORK agree to this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Anti-piracy can only be implimented by collecting personal details.

    Google's new idiology of all under one banner to enable "targetted advertising" is also a masquerade for collecting personal details - that's you and your children. THERE IS NO OPT-OUT!

    'Free internet' is about to be regulated and controlled by the those who assemble the largest database about you & yours.

    Big Brother looms!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Did Aristotle Einstein Michelangelo da Vinci Martha Graham Homer Aristophanes forgot to ask you for a fee because are on the internet? What all big humans did they did it for all But the 'average postmodern individuals' is simply jealous Just keep it for yourself nobody has asked your contribution! This is the risk of being big=everyone can learn from you Are you big enough to take the risk then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    The worlds economy is falling apart yet the rush to get anti-copyright theft laws seems to be giving far more importance by our world leaders. Also without china on board what's the point?

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Let the internet wars begin. I for one hope anonymous launch attacks against every corporation, individual and government who support this bill. My generation and all generations should not allow the internet to become censored. It was built to be free from all constraint.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    #55 That's the problem. Downloading is always portrayed as a criminal act rather than a way to transfer information. At this point those industries can be accused of profiteering by deliberatly using an expensive distribution system. With any other industry governments would be trying to protect people from the scam, not propping it up

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    I admit, the fact that pirates can circumnavigate ACTA makes it rather pointless.

    However, we shouldn't be backing down so easily. This law allows you to be sued for the most innocent misuses of IP, giving big corporations a "speeding ticket" approach to IP. I honestly can't see a free, open or balanced future if people who have the money and power can patent what ever they want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Maybe it's time to question why Copyright is worth more than your civil liberties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    People making millions from piracy are clearly wrong and already criminals under existing rules.

    Yet the action of the industry seems happiest trying to add new rules that go after the little fish. Why should it be illegal to buy a track for CD and put it on an iPod.

    They stopped making videos so that everyone would have to buy dvds with region codes. How come copyright means total control?

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    What is the point of having knowledge if it can't be shared freely?


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