January 26 2012, 12:23 PM

The EU signs up to Acta

The EU and 22 of its member states have signed up to Acta — the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement — in Tokyo today (26 January).

Acta — which is supported by many rights owners — has been met with widespread criticism from open rights activists, who argue that the legislation has been rushed through the legal system under the guise of being a trade agreement, when in fact it is a new copyright law. They also argue that it blurs the distinction between piracy and counterfeiting and that it criminalises copyright infringement when there are civil sanctions already.

Representatives from the European Union and 22 member states — including the UK, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden — attended a ceremony at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The five remaining member states — Cyprus, Germany, Estonia Netherlands and Slovakia, are expected to sign up soon.

The EU now joins other signatories Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and the US, who signed up to the treaty in October 2011.

Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, Ambassador and Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Japan said that Acta aims to improve enforcement mechanism to help its members combat intellectual property rights infringement more effectively.

European advocacy group La Quadrature du Net released a statement urging people to fight Acta by lobbying their MEPs before a vote on Acta in the European Parliament in June.

The statement said: “A few days after the online protests against the anti-sharing bills SOPA and PIPA in the United States, today’s signing ceremony of Acta is the symbol of the circumvention of democracy to impose policies that hurt freedom of communication and innovation worldwide. However, this highly symbolic signature is not the end of the road.”

Spokesperson Jérémie Zimmermann said: “In the last few days, we have seen encouraging protests by Polish and other EU citizens, who are rightly concerned with the effect of Acta on freedom of expression, access to medicines, but also access to culture and knowledge.

“European citizens must reclaim democracy, against the harmful influence of corporate interests over global policy-making. For each of the coming debates and votes in the EU Parliament’s committees before the final vote this summer, citizens must engage with their representatives,” he concluded.

What can you do about Acta?

If you don’t like the sound of Acta, it’s not too late to do something about it.

Acta — like all trade agreements — still needs to be presented to the European Parliament for a vote.

Before Acta goes to vote in European Parliament, a number of committees are giving their opinion on the text in a report by the International Trade Committee (Inta). Opponents to Acta can contact Inta, along with the Legal Affairs (Juri) and Development (Deve), Civil Liberties (Libe) and Industry (Itre) committees. Each committee is to vote on whether they support the treaty before sending their views to Inta for the final report.

La Quadrature du Net advises opponents of Acta to:

  1. Get comfortable with the arguments
  2. Select any MEP from the Inta committee and call them
  3. Politely tell them your concerns
  4. Repeat 1-3

To find out about the next steps for Acta and how you can protest it, visit La Quadrature du Net’s page.

(source)

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