Europeans Protest ACTA as More Countries Sign Treaty

By: Qichen Zhang on 1 February 2012

After the Polish government announced that it would support the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, protests—both online and off—erupted in Poland. Last Friday, The Washington Post reported that members of the leftist party Palikot's Movement protested the move toward ACTA by wearing Guy Fawkes masks during a vote of no confidence held in Warsaw. A fight also broke out in parliament about Poland's plans to sign the treaty in Japan next month.

Outside of parliament, Polish citizens have become increasingly active against ACTA. On Friday, protesters marched in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw wearing Guy Fawkes masks of their own. People in Poznan and Lublin have begun marching in the streets in an attempt to curb the growing number of EU members signing the treaty. The protests have extended beyond Polish borders, with other Europeans also protesting the general EU support for ACTA.

Despite the number of countries that have already signed ACTA, the agreement still faces significant institutional opposition against its ratification. Last Friday, it was reported that Kader Arif, the European Parliament's independent monitor for ACTA, resigned. Arif stated that the development of the proposal included the following shortcomings: "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 give, reject of Parliament’s recommendations as given in several resolutions of our assembly.” Outside of Europe, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has called ACTA damaging to participatory democracy and a "top-down, arbitrary approach" to controlling IP laws. As the "evil twin of SOPA," ACTA is more dangerous than its American counterpart, according to Californian House representative Darrell Issa, who lambasted the treaty at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland alongside Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales and Mashable's Pete Cashmore.

The public demonstrations followed on the heels of an online protest by Anonymous over Poland's support of the treaty. Last week, the hacker group attacked several government websites, including that of the prime minister. For more information, see previous ONI coverage of Poland and ACTA.