Look out, SOPA, here comes ACTA.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, like SOPA, deals with intellectual property, but it’s both older than SOPA, and different from it.
SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) was proposed as a U.S. law aimed at preventing illegal copying of things like movies and music. ACTA is a international trade agreement aimed at preventing cross-border trade in counterfeit goods and medicines, as well as online piracy (a good primer is here, and Wikipedia’s ACTA page has detailed background and sources). It was signed by eight countries in October of 2011, including Canada, Japan and the U.S.
Now ACTA is in the news because on Thursday, Poland and most other EU nations signed ACTA, and activists flush with anger over SOPA see ACTA as even worse.
Feelings ran especially high in Poland. Friday saw demonstrations in several Polish cities, including Warsaw (see video below).
There were also protests online last week, including hackers defacing some Polish government’s website early last week. “Hacked by the Polish Underground: Stop ACTA” greeted visitors to one administrator’s website.
Some Polish Members of Parliament donned Guy Fawkes masks during session to protest the treaty. Guy Fawkes masks became a broad meme for protest after a stylized version was used in “V for Vendetta,” which was made into a movie in 2005.
Popular radio host and commentator Monika Olejnik’s wore the same mask to interview Michal Boni, Poland’s digitization minister. Her op-ed for Gazeta Wyborcza, one of the leading newspapers in Poland, argued that although it’s important to deal with the problem of piracy, this treaty is “scandalous” and that it’s been pushed through so as to please the Americans. Here’s the link to her piece in Polish.
The protests seemed to take Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk aback. On Friday, he told journalists that if it turns out that ACTA represents a threat to freedom of speech, then Poland will not ratify the treaty.
Still, the debate continues.
From Sunday 60 bars and cafes in Warsaw were displaying YOU CAN BLOCK ACTA posters with a handy accompanying petition to sign. And today controversial politician Janusz Palikot went a large step further. His party (that won 10 per cent of the vote in the 2011 elections) has started to collect money to make and place a Vendetta mask on Europe’s largest religious statue, the 108 feet tall effigy of Jesus in the Western Polish town of Swiebodzin.
The fact is though that ACTA will not be in effect until it is ratified by at least five countries. In Europe it must pass the European Parliament before any individual countries can vote to ratify it. The EU’s ACTA rapporteur (investigator), a French politician named Kader Arif, resigned Friday in protest that ACTA had been signed.
The question remains, as the Irish online site TheJournal.ie asks, why the Poles are particularly riled about the treaty.
Some answers are to be found in this lively debate Polish-American debate on American University’s Intellectual Property Brief blog.