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
    +1

    Comment number 176.

    the european parliament represents our first line of defense against this peice of legisaltion in europe. we must make the MEP's see reason. we must make them say NO to acta.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 175.

    "So I buy your book, that took you 2 or 3 years to write, for £500, then
    150.
    Graphis
    I publish it and it becomes an international bestseller, making me a multi-millionaire. Yeah, thanks David: but I don't suppose you'll get much support from other authors for that idea:)"

    Whose the fool for selling it for £500 in the first place - he deserves to be ripped off?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 174.

    Prohibition tactics have always failed spectacularly. Do our Governments believe they can impose upon the people this ludicrous law, then contain the fallout? Acta will prove a Pyrrhic victory. The people will have their way.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 173.

    US Embassy inquired about outcome of the note passed by the one of the parliament comision concerning ACTA.They weren't happy because the note called Prime minister not to sign ACTA, which obviously happened anyway.
    Please start protesting, and spread the message across Europe.

    Cheers,

    Btw,
    I've lived couple of years in London and I think ur grate people, who won't submit to this evil ACTA

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 172.

    You cannot treat a piece of intellectual property like a farm that grows you crops year on year (without repeated effort even). Ideas are there for others to build their ideas on. The way forward for humanity is free software as that is the way most of the Internet is and the compatible Creative Commons licencing for other content like music. ACTA is a path of destruction. We must fight it.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 171.

    Dear British People,
    Please start protesting this awful law. It's not too late. I know, you didn't get a chance to hear about it, because of the government friendly media, it's quite the same here, and probably across Europe. That's why we need to act urgently. Bear in mind Richard O'dwyer. We already heard about this poor lad. By the way, we just learnt, that U.S Embassy inquired 2bcontinued

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 170.

    The fact that the UK has signed it without even telling us is disgusting. This act will give corporations way too much power and seriously threatens the freedom of the internet.

    And the truth is, it won't do anything to stop piracy. Anyone who is serious will have a way round it, this has always happened in the past. No, all this act will do is stifle creativity and freedom of speech.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 169.

    Musicians make money from performing, why do they expect to make huge quantities of cash from recording something and selling millions of copies the recording? Do artists who paint pictures keep making money from photocopies of their work? Not really, they have to keep working on the next project and the next. Musicians are lazy.

    Or perhaps the record companies are greedy.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 168.

    Another step on the road to Facism in Europe. This and the lawss on Genocide in France. They are curbing our freedoms one by one, one is most depressing is the dumbed down masses don't seem to care. They will when the thought police knock on their door though

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 167.

    governments are terrified by the power of the internet and have been looking for a way to control it for some time.anything too overt would cause outrage so they have adopted this'back door' method which only the poles seem to have recognised for what it is.we should all be extremely alarmed by this and taking whatever action we can within the law to stop it.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 166.

    MJRPEEL

    "Perhaps all those people anti this legislation can present an alternative that stops the egregious theft of ..."

    More than 100 sites alleged to have been selling counterfeit goods or sharing pirated content have been shut down by the US government WITHOUT needing this new legislation!

    Saying it is about combating copyright is rubbish, methods for this already exist and are in place

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 165.

    Every corporate bod wants to own and monetize the "process," no matter what it is. They'd charge the useless eaters as they call us for Oxygen by the litre if they thought they could get away with it. Who knows, if there's hardly any public protest, they probably will monetize the air we breathe in future.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 164.

    Information has never been capable of being owned, and it never will be. The whole idea is like a snake eating itself, because those who claim ownership have themselves consumed vast quantities of free information in order to pursue their legal rights over what they call their own. Who can type one sentence of a thesis without using letters crafted by the dead? And who has paid for their letters?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 163.

    From what I understand musical groups make their money doing live shows and get a pittance from record sales. If this is the case then ACTA is legislating and legitimizing corporate greed.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 162.

    That countries have signed up to this without any publicised debates shows that they (the creators & signees) have something to hide!

    It is not about piracy or crime more to do with ensuring planning of future protests against governments are hampered & controlling free speech.

    If Libya/Egypt had such systems in place last years revolutions wouldn't have happened!

    This is a black day indeed

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 161.

    I am amazed that people can NOT see the problem with ACTA and SOPA.

    The old economy sells physical things (CDs, books), the digital economy sells ideas, so how does it make sense to restrict the future of the digital economy for the sake of the Walt Disney Corporation and its dusty intellectual properties.
    We are in a period of transition, so take a deep breathe and stop panicking.

  • Comment number 160.

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

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 159.

    Perhaps now that performers work can be previewed freely on the net they will be forced to go back to live concerts and performances and the Simon Cowley rubbish formulated music will take a backward step into oblivion. Also at the rate big businesses are copy and trade marking everything there will be nothing left we can say!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 158.

    Musicians, poets and entertainers used to travel far and wide to bring joy to audiences and ply their trade. If they were good, and worked, hard they made good money. Then suddenly they found they could sit on their bums in studios, or make tv appearances and make vast fortunes. Gone were the days of edgy music, groups and performers who really cared about what they were doing,

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 157.

    ACTA is not just about piracy. it will stop generic drug production like aspirin, paracetomol & push patented more expensive drugs onto people. It will allow customs to confiscate Ipods/Ipads/Iphones etc if they are found to have music on them. it strips away all civil rights & liberties. it will limit innovation not just in free software but also other areas of life. WE NEED TO ACT & PREVENT THIS

 

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