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Most EU states sign away internet rights, ratify ACTA treaty

European Parliament observer resigns in protest

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Representatives of 21 of the EU’s member states, including the UK, have signed off on the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) – the European version of the US SOPA and PIPA rolled into one and cranked up to 11.

Only Cyprus, Germany, Estonia, Slovakia, and the Netherlands have held off on signing the treaty, which will give authorities even more power to enforce copyright than was contained in aforementioned online-piracy legislation currently on hold in the US.

In a signing ceremony in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Mr. Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, head of the EU delegation, said in a statement that ACTA “aims to improve enforcement mechanisms to help its members combat IPR infringement more effectively.”

It seems he’s quite isolated in this opinion, however. Thousands of protestors took to the streets in Poland to protest the signing of the treaty, which was developed behind closed doors by media industry lobbyists and politicians, and hackers have been busy registering their protests online.

In an unprecedented move, the French European Parliament member assigned to monitor the treaty proceedings, Kader Arif, resigned in protest at the signings, and issued a strongly worded rebuke, saying that the EU was trying to have as little public debate on ACTA as possible, and that right-wing groups were trying to ram it into law with no oversight.

“This agreement might have major consequences on citizens' lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade,” he said.

The signing does not mean that ACTA is as yet in effect, however. The European Parliament still has to ratify the treaty, and a vote is due in the summer. At least EU parliamentarians get to debate the issue – the Obama administration claims that no democratic vote is required on the treaty since it an “executive agreement”.

“This is a fight between a dying industry, desperate to hold onto its power, and the internet community,” Raegan MacDonald, senior policy analyst at advocacy group Access told The Reg. “All is not lost. If the European Parliament votes down the ACTA treaty, then the whole thing falls apart and it’s back to the drawing board for those behind this legislation.” ®

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