A wolf in sheep’s clothing – that’s how ACTA opponents have described the international copyright treaty. Thousands are to protest in Sweden on Saturday while in Poland the legislation has been suspended after attacks on government websites.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Friday that a wider discussion should be held before the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement comes into force. The talks should involve both Internet users and privacy protection agencies, Tusk added. Ratification of the document has been postponed pending the results of those talks.
Meanwhile in Sweden, thousands of Internet users are expected to take to the streets of several major cities on Saturday. Over 11,000 have signed up to attend the rallies on a Facebook page promoted by the “hacktivist” group, Anonymous.
Reports say similar demonstrations are set to take place in other countries across Europe, including the UK, France, Germany, Poland and other countries.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is a plurilateral agreement involving a number of countries including the US, Australia and Japan, as well as the European Union. The UK and 21 other EU member states signed the agreement on January 26. It now has to be ratified by the European Parliament and is scheduled to be debated in June.
The treaty aims at establishing a legal framework to stop the cross-border trade in counterfeit goods. However many, including insiders, say the document jeopardizes Internet freedoms. The former European Parliament rapporteur for ACTA, Kader Arif, resigned his post last Friday after the treaty was signed by the EU, condemning the whole process leading to the signature of the agreement.
He later told the Guardian that the treaty threatens online freedom and could mean that someone crossing a border with a laptop containing a single song or movie potentially facing criminal charges.
“The title of this agreement is misleading, because it is not only about counterfeiting, it is about the violation of intellectual property rights," Kader Arif told the Guardian. "There is a major difference between these two concepts."
ACTA, which is often compared to America’s controversial SOPA and PIPA bills, has led to major protests in several European states. In solidarity with the movement, the online activist collective Anonymous has launched a series of Internet attacks.