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
    +3

    Comment number 136.

    SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, are not what they seem - it is a test to see how far they can push their juridical legitimacy on the masses via EU and UN, don't you see? It's fear and control, the policies of the act are not the nominal concern; the piracy programs were spread through the multi- media conglomerates themselves - it's all a game, and they're winning... It is the defense of the capitalist organism

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 135.

    If the 'entertainment' industry don't like the conditions of individual liberty under which they sell, perhaps they should consider going on strike?. The concept is laughable because with access to the net many people are now easily capable of keep each other entertained with worthwhile content - for free. The fact is this 'industry' is bearly fit for purpose and bearly serves a purpose anymore

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 134.

    @132 this is the first official story i have ever seen of ACTA. ive only seen this around for a few months, and i keep one ear to the ground at all times. this has been kept in complete secrecy from the public.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 133.

    This is extraordinarily bad for society because:
    >Under the guise of "fighting piracy" it puts in place structures which are ideal for restricting freedom of speech (remember, text is copyrighted too) and for censorship, the basis of an Orwellian society
    >Lacking judicial oversight, the tools put in place to shutdown "pirate" sites can easilly be used by large companies to kill Internet Startups

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 132.

    Thank goodness the Poles are demonstrating, seems everywhere else in Europe including the UK there is silence and no protests - when will the people of the UK realise that their freedom is going to be taken away and they will never get it back. Little by little we are being controlled and we are sleeping walking into totalitarism. Wake up UK!!!!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 131.

    Capitalism will founder soon under its own greed, the historical production of its own contradictions, and the increasing international bourgeois claims on fictitious capital. When the capitalist ship goes down - the bourgeoisie are going opt for fascism to retain their established order; doctrinaire Marxism, has always been de facto the ideal socio-economic system. It's going to be too late soon.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 130.

    As against ACTA as I am, when all is said and done all this will do is encourage people to think of new ways to do the same as we are doing now. It will drive more people to use the underground networks and potentially act as a recruitment drive for more budding hackers to take their revenge on the powers that be. We've already seen this with the attacks on government websites and servers.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 129.

    Nice of out officials to make decisions for us.. They do it all the time.. However when they don't consult us and they are wrong we pay the price.. Media companies make zillions of dollars yet cry poor and demand higher prices.. Maybe if it didn't cost $50 to take a family to the movies I would do it more.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 128.

    Please sign the petition against ACTA: http://www.avaaz.org/en/eu_save_the_internet_spread/
    More than 600 000 people have already signed it.
    Read also about Richard O’Dwyer - first victim of ACTA. This British student will be extradicted to USA and go to prison for 10 years although he didn't break British law.
    It is a good example of how ACTA works :/

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 127.

    @Theophila
    So how come only Polish youths protest?

    There was total lack of transparency! Prime Minister Donald Tusk decide to approve another treaty without any public debate.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 126.

    ACTA was signed without any CIVILIAN consultation, it was made, and kept as much as possible in SECRET, the only time the media has reported on this controversial law was a small article about the protests in poland.

    Help internet freedom: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/eu_save_the_internet_spread/?slideshow

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 125.

    123.Nico, I agree totally. Back to my post 118, some of the music on this site may be uploaded from guys who bought the original track. No financial gain by sharing to others. Some are also copied from TV/radio & are infringing Copyright, as never paid for.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 124.

    #85 "Interesting that none of China, India, Russia or Brazil have signed."

    Countries in which intellectual property theft is prevalent and corruption extremely high. And in which even some government agencies use pirated software, including Windows 7.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 123.

    This has nothing to do with copyright... this is about copy control! Sharing is not piracy but they brainwash us to think it is. The legal system is not a tool to create business opportunities, the creative mind is a tool to create business opportunities. It is about time we stop businesses stuck in the past from dictating our laws!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 122.

    65.40Watt If you don't want Google to collect info about you then use Ipred or TOR or noscript or ghosterly or all 4 read up and learn, it is still lawful to protect your privacy. Use bayfiles to share things with friends. The crazy laws being implemented will not earn copyright holders an extra red cent but will encourage a growing underground darknet with the nasty connotations surrounding it.

  • rate this
    -12

    Comment number 121.

    Re #18 "Each person using the internet has a responsibility to pay a reasonable fee for people's work - be that art, photography, writing, film or other such works. To suggest otherwise is to condone theft."

    This commment has elicited dozens of negative comments from, one could assume, intellectual property thieves.

    Signum tempori?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 120.

    These "older" Gentleman may not understand this "new fangled " Internet but they should understand the terms "loopholes" and "exploitation". If the average citizen can see that ACTA will cause more troubles then its benefits, maybe they shouldn't be making new laws about the Internet. I think a new branch of world government needs to be set up that specifically deals with Internet policies.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 119.

    Lack of transparency, underhand deals "never before seen manoeuvres" happening in the E.U. Just how many milliseconds has this guy been a member of the European parliament not to have seen this before, or has his guide dog resigned as well?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 118.

    How does a website like mp3raid allow downloading of copied music, at same time as selling genuine downloads for a small fee? Liked an earlier post about BIG movie stars getting 15M for a film, and wanting a cut from many years later. If a movie is released outside USA/EU, the Countries buy the rights to show it for far less. So as another guy said, cannot expect to sell a DVD for 15$.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 117.

    The only comment that can be seen (out of the current 19 posted) is Dragonwight's. Perhaps the controversial law has already been enforced?

 

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