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.

'Dangerous'

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
    +5

    Comment number 116.

    Comment 109 rr6
    "The internet is not a human right"

    I would have thought communication electronically, between computers or otherwise, was in fact a basic human right covered trivially by the right to associate freely. Why do you feel you should have some command of what other people say to each other on computers?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 115.

    The question of online piracy has been around for more than a decade. so how come the sudden rush to find a 'final solution' eh? sopa, pipa, and from the shadows, acta. curious they have all come to light, soon as the full potential of internet coodinated protests have swept the world, and downed dictators... also odd how if america was signed up to acta, why bother with the other two LOUD ones?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 114.

    Okay, software piracy is a problem, and it does need to be solved. But stuff like ACTA and SOPA - poorly worded laws that allow for governments to have total control over the internet - are not the way forward.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 113.

    There is no such thing as intellectual property. It's an oxymoron.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 112.

    Don't forget the movie industry tried very hard to outlaw the VCR back in the 70s. Nowadays, democratically chosen around the world governments have to kowtow to the American music and movie industry's lobbyists and their insatiable greed for more and more profits. And who really cares if Tom Cruise et al make $30 million or $3,000 per movie?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 111.

    We are now seeing censorship (and indoctrination) being openly integrated into all our lives, we need to stop this rot from taking place, recent on line protest has shown what can be achieved by determination and commitment, it is time to make a stance and stop our liberties from being eroded by a minority, contact your MEP's, tell them to scrap this act now

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 110.

    These idiots who can't even tell the difference between copyright infringement and larceny are lamentably under-qualified to comment on the subject.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 109.

    While there should be completely uncensored free speech on the internet, it is reasonable for the music industry, film industry, book publishers, etc not to have their products illegally copied and distributed. The internet is not a human right and, like other criminals, offenders should lose their liberties if they break the law.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 108.

    So the first step for the EU will be to ban the sale of the American beer that is infringinging the trademarks of the original Czech beer - Budweiser, and have all the American directors extradited to face charges of piracy. Or do these rules not apply to America ? The majority of the American economy is based on ideas stolen from other countries, but they don't like it when others take theirs.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 107.

    A simple test for this kind of legislation is: how easy would it be for a copyright holder, say a musician, to sue a large corporation, say one of the major music labels, for copyright infringement (or theft / piracy if you prefer).
    On this basis ACTA performs about as well as you'd expect, so Spotify looks safe to continue earning money for the labels that own it.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 106.

    I understand western initiatives to protect IP and media, but is anyone really surprised by yet another lack of transparency and democracy by the EU?

    Good on Mr Arif for resigning and bringing this to the public's attention. The EU-SSR is becoming an Orwellian nightmare more and more by the day.

    When are we going to get OUT?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 105.

    Movie gross revenues and box office receipts have doubled in the last 15 years. Grosses: from $52.8 billion in 1995 to $104.4 billion in 2009, box office receipts: from $5.3 billion in 1995 to $10.6 billion in 2010, yet hiring still went down. News Corporation paid CEO R Murdoch $33,292,753 in 2011; Viacom's CEO made $84,515,308; Time Warner's CEO made $26,303,071;Disney's CEO made $29,617,964.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 104.

    according to acta over 80 % content of youtube is illegal, so shot down youtube like megaupload! :)

    and how's that?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 103.

    Anyone who ever owned an Amiga 500 in the 80's knows why all anti piracy laws are useless. People will just start swapping hard drives.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 102.

    Not being the sharpest knife in the drawer (retired Engineer) with technology, I still see the personnel info being collected thru my PC connection to internet. Just checked out hotels in Hong Kong for a visit, spam on the BBC site 10 minutes later for hotels in HK. Big Brother is certainly with us. Blocked sites here in Thailand, & many in China. Internet may have become choked all Gov's.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 101.

    "So how come only Polish youths protest?"

    I suspect none of us were supposed to know about this until it was all done and dusted. Someone probably accidentally let the cat out of the bag in Poland. This sort of secrecy just shows what an utter sham democracy has become in Europe.

  • rate this
    +29

    Comment number 100.

    They think they are protecting copyright,but this is not thought through. It will result in censorship of liberties by the back door,including freedom of speech and thought. Big business and Governments have various things they do not want us to know and this is a way for them to impose censorship over the people.It is just plain wrong-not just stopping downloading copyright material.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 99.

    not only young people are protesting, do not comment it if you do not know the situation. Although the street is a predominance of young, but case looks different in the Internet!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 98.

    So now you can get sent to prison for just looking or listening? You don't need to copy anything, just look or listen and you can go to prison?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 97.

    Over years I have paid for licences for 5 spreadsheet programs (I'm very old) and bought three copies of Brothers in Arms (I told you) CDs plus cassette and LP. If I buy a music program to play purchased tracks on, will I get refund when it's superceded by new program - no I'll have to pay all over again. I've paid too many times for right to listen. Piracy or slavery?

 

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