European parliament’s ACTA monitor quits in protest

January 27, 2012

The European Parliament’s independent monitor for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) resigned Friday in protest after 22 European Union member states signed the anti-piracy treaty Thursday.

According to the BBC, Kader Arif said that he condemns “the whole process which led to the signature of this agreement: no consultation of the civil society, lack of transparency since the beginning of negotiations, repeated delays of the signature of the text without any explanation give, reject of Parliament’s recommendations as given in several resolutions of our assembly.”

Protests in Poland and Ireland sprung up over the treaty as critics warned that the treaty could lead to online censorship by extending existing intellectual property laws to the Internet. Several drew parallels between ACTA and two U.S. bills being considered in Congress, the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP (Intellectual Property) Act. Rep. Darell Issa (R-Calif.) said in remarks at the World Economic Forum that he believes ACTA is “more dangerous” than SOPA.

Opposition to that treaty has sparked days of protest online, though the idea behind the treaty has raised concerns among advocates of free speech and electronic freedom for much longer. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has voiced its concerns about ACTA for over a year and is encouraging people around the world to take action against the pact before the European Parliament votes to accept the treaty, a move that is expected within the next few weeks.

Scholars have said that the treaty has implications for the United States, as well. The Obama administration has already agreed to ACTA through an executive agreement, an act that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) challenged in October. Wyden said that ACTA is a treaty that has implications for U.S. intellectual property law and should have been ratified by the House and Senate. For it’s part, the Obama administration has said that it does not believe ACTA’s implementation would have any effect on U.S. law.

Wyden disagrees, saying in his letter this past fall that, “ACTA’s subject matter — including foreign commerce and intellectual property — appear to me and other to relate to Article I powers of Congress, not issues lying within the President’s sole constitutional authority .”

As attention paid to SOPA and PIPA have turned to ACTA, Wyden has gotten more allies. As of Friday, over 3,800 people have signed a petition to the White House to have ACTA submitted to the Senate.

The smaller debate in America echoes larger criticism of the treaty, which was negotiated with little or no public input. Protesting those tactics, lawmakers in Poland donned copies of the Guy Fawkes masks used in the film “V For Vendetta.” Those masks have been used by the hacking group Anonymous, which attacked Polish government Web sites over the treaty.

Eva Galperin, an activist with the nonprofit Internet freedom group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called the whole treaty process “opaque and undemocratic.”

Related stories:

ACTA protests erupt in Poland

Poland signs international copyright treaty that has sparked days of protests

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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