As massive demonstrations rage in Poland against the ACTA copyright treaty, the European Parliament's rapporteur for the contentious agreement has resigned in protest. Opponents criticize the deal as pure censorship and violation of human rights.
Kader Arif resigned Friday, saying the drafting of the controversial anti-piracy treaty was accompanied by "never-before-seen manoeuvres" by officials.
"I condemn the whole process which led to the signature of this agreement: no consultation of civil society, lack of transparency since the beginning of negotiations, repeated delays of the signature of the text without any explanation given, rejection of Parliament's recommendations as given in several resolutions of our assembly," Arif said as cited by the BBC.
Meanwhile in Warsaw, extremely cold weather was definitely not an excuse for demonstrators. Friday’s protest culminated a week of mass rallies in Poland. Thursday’s signing of the deal by Warsaw drew tens of thousands onto the streets across the country to protest internet censorship.
ACTA may have a positive stated aim to protect intellectual property. The people on the streets however fear it will be used to police the web and take down harmless websites.
Unlike the week’s massive protests, Friday’s showdown had clear political overtones. While the majority of demonstrators were saying “no” to the treaty, a large crowd was also directing their anger at the government. Experts say, the scale of public dissent has managed to make authorities nervous.
“The government promoted itself as being pro-modern, pro-young people, pro-internet. And people tried to keep them accountable. So when they discovered the government supports ACTA, it was a political answer: ‘No we don’t trust you anymore,” Katarzyna Szymielewicz of the Panoptical Foundation told RT.
To become law in Poland, ACTA needs the approval of both the Polish and European Parliaments. Nobody knows for sure how long this might take, but protesters say they will continue piling the pressure on the authorities, to stop this from happening.
Prime-minister Tusk is adamant Warsaw will not give in to anti-ACTA “blackmail”. On Friday, he rejected calls from opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski to hold a referendum on the contentious deal. But what was initially a quiet social protest has become politically broader with every rally.
ACTA is an international agreement aimed at protecting intellectual property. It shares similarities with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US, which was shelved by lawmakers last week after a partial blackout by Wikipedia and Google in protest.
The ACTA treaty was negotiated by industrialized countries struggling for ways to fight counterfeiting and intellectual property theft. The US, most of the EU, Australia, Canada, Japan and several other states have signed the deal.
Critics of ACTA accuse the countries of hammering out the agreement in secret and say the deal will limit online freedom of speech.