Emotions about ACTA – the international anti-counterfeiting trade agreement – continue to run high in Europe.
After a weekend of demonstrations across the continent, with tens of thousands of people braving frigid temperatures to protest curbs on internet freedom, two more countries have displayed their cold feet.
Yesterday the Dutch Lower House voted to refrain from signing the agreement for the time being. And in Bulgaria a leading politician said his government would delay ratification and that he was ready to resign over the controversy.
Much of the opposition to ACTA comes from the fact that its signing happened without any public consultation and in some cases without even much debate within individual governments.
Now, however, prominent voices are being raised that question whether the agreement gets the balance right between cracking down on piracy and protecting individual rights. Even the president of the European Parliament (whose approval also required to make ACTA law) Martin Shultz has said: “I don’t find it good in its current form.”
Fear of what ACTA could means runs particularly high in Eastern Europe thanks, in part, to their collective memory of surveillance during communist times.
And that’s not all. The popular Polish online gossip portal Pudelek (think Gawker) puts it this way:
So let’s write about what is not being spoken out – about what is the real reason for the protest and anger that suddenly surprises everybody now: the Internet “piracy” for private use is today the only way for millions of young Poles to live at least a bit like their colleagues from Western Europe. To have access to culture, entertainment, to be able to watch a movie on the computer with the girlfriend. This is actually not only a Polish problem. This is a problem of the whole young population in Europe that doesn’t have any chance to do a career like their parents did and buy the same apartments they once bought.
That quote comes to us thanks to Global Voices online. Read more below about how Pudelek – or “poodle” – has challenged Poland’s establishment media on the ACTA issue and caused a huge stir in the process.
Poland was the first EU country to put the agreement on hold, after a series of demonstrations in January. According to a poll released today, 67% of Poles believe the protestors are on the right side of the issue.