Anti-ACTA Protests in Europe13. February 2012 - 14:37 — Dejan Georgievski
February 13, 2012 -- Last Saturday, February 11, protests against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), signed on January 26, in Tokyo (22 of the 27 EU member-states signed the agreement) were held in a number of countries in Europe and all over the world. Several hundred protesters gathered in Zagreb, in front of Croatian Foreign Ministry, to express their discontent with the ACTA Agreement.
The protesters warned that, were ACTA to be ratified, internet providers will be obligated to monitor all activities of their users in order to record and discover all copyright violations and infringements. Trademark owners and enforcement authorities would receive wide competences in investigation of suspect individuals, including authority to infringe on their privacy. Besides internet, the Agreement largely restricts the actions in other areas – patents, production of generic medicines and software.
"If this Agreement is ratified, in addition to the damage it will cause to international trade and innovation, it will cause huge negative consequences on freedom of speech, accessibility of cultural goods and privacy”, ACTA opponents say, adding that the agreement “doesn’t satisfy EU standards on protection and promotion of universality, integrity and openness of internet.
Although the Government of Croatia noted that it was yet to discuss the Agreement, Croatian President Ivo Josipović already expressed his public support for ACTA. In reaction, the Anonymous Croatia hacker group took down, for two days in a row, his official website Predsjednik.hr, and protesters treated him to chants “Josipović, shame on zou” and a banner that said „Ivo, We wouldn't download your music anyway“.
Joško Klisović from the Foreign Ministry met with the protesters and reaffirmed their right to peaceful gathering, noting that the Ministry was prepared to sit and talk to them. Klisović also noted that the Agreement has not been ratified by the European Parliament yet, and that Croatian Government has not adopted a position on ACTA. Protesters decided that they will create a working group that will meet with the Ministry in due time.
Similar protests in Croatia were also held in Osijek, Pula, Rijeka and Split.
Under the auspices of the Anti-ACTA campaign, the Pirates’ Party of Serbia organized a public debate on the topic Stop ACTA last Thursday, February 9, at the Ozone Gallery in Belgrade. The debate, chaired by Aleksandar Blagojević from the Pirates’ Party, IT rights lawyer Žarko Ptiček, and Ognjen Uzelac, specialist in copyrights and associated rights in music, concluded that the ratification of the ACTA agreement would threaten protection of personal data, increase the control over social networks and content distribution channels on the internet, as well as introduce restrictive measures in pharmaceutical industry and agronomy.
Žarko Ptiček noted that the agreement dedicates a whole chapter to protection of intellectual property in digital space and threatens directly the Law on protection of personal data.
"Every country will order its adequate body to impose an obligation on service providers to discover and report all violations and assist the rights holders in getting the information that would help identify those who allegedly committed intellectual property rights infringements. It practically means that providers, to avoid fines and prison sentences, pre-empt to allow constant surveillance of all of our electronic traffic, so that they could submit the collected information to whose who intend to file charges against us on alleged intellectual property infringements”, Ptiček said.
In his view, the second questionable provision of the Agreement is the fact that it allows for the creation of an ACTA committee which would remain out of the control of any independent body, would be able to write its own rules of engagement and create ad hoc bodies to assist it in the pursued of its duties.
Rodoljub Šabić, Serbian Commissioner for Information of Public Interest and Personal Data Protection, said that ACTA puts first the issue of transparency of its adoption and that „... somebody succeedid in getting something that concerns all of us, while we don't know anything about the way it was achieved“.
“It is a matter of science fiction for a team of people to gather and create a concept that will regulate our lives for the several coming decades. Nobody should be able to regulate the relations of millions of peoples without our scrutiny and oversight. That is the most legitimate cause for protest of ACTA’s opponents”, Šabić said.
Aleksandar Blagojević, the founder of the Pirates’ Party in Serbia, said that it was important to “fight ACTA and similar concepts, knowing that internet is not territorially defined and any changes adopted in a single country would affect all of us”.
“As a society, we find ourselves in a very responsible situation. The exploitation of the concept of so-called intellectual property is close to its ‘Orwellian’ realisation. Now we need to protect the authors, researches and generators of ideas in a way to prevent any exploitation of their integrity. We, as a community, do exactly that through our public piracy actions all over the world”, Blagojević said.
In Macedonia, protests against ACTA agreement were scheduled for March 15, 2012, at the „Macedonia“ square in Skopje, and the STOP ACTA Makedonija group was created on Facebook.
Last Saturday, February 11, anti-ACTA protests were held in many countries in Europe and the world. Several petitions (Access Now, KillActa and AVAAZ) were organized against the Agrement that aims to synchronize the international standards for protection of copyrights in music, film, fashion, pharmaceutical and other industries, and were signed by millions of people.
The Green MEPs already condemned the Agreement and joined the citizens in the protests last Saturday. The Social-Democrats’ Group at the European Parliament also announced it intended to vote against the Agreement, and similar pledge was made by the Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe. The citizens of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia already refused to ratify ACTA, and the latest news is that German and Latvian governments also postponed its ratification. (Source: H-alter.org/e-novine.com)