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Corporate interests behind ACTA

06 February 2012 / 22:02:57  GRReporter
4781 reads

Anastsia Balezdrova

"On February 11, the world will be out in an unprecedented showing of solidarity against ACTA. Protests are being organized all over the globe to show the European Parliament that they must reject ACTA. Though many countries have signed the treaty already, if the EP rejects ACTA, it will be sent into the dustbin of history!" write the organizers.

"The resistance against the disputed ACTA agreement is growing. Over a million and a half users have voted against it on the website of Avaaz. The spokeswoman of the Slovenian government apologized that the country has signed it. Kader Arif, Member of the European Parliament from France, who was appointed to report on the introduction of ACTA in the European Parliament, resigned on 26 January in protest. It is vital to show that nobody in Europe supports ACTA," writes the Greek pirate party in its e-mail.

We spoke with the representative of the Greek pirates Anestis Samourkadis about what exactly ACTA is and why it is causing so much anger.

"Formally, Japan stands behind the preparation of ACTA. It took the initiative of coordinating the whole process. ACTA is an intergovernmental trade agreement signed by the European Union as a legal entity, the 27 member states, USA, Switzerland, South Africa, South Korea, Japan and others. The strange thing is that although it is an agreement aimed at fighting the production and sale of counterfeited branded goods, China is not participating in it. The fact that China, India, and other countries that produce such goods have not signed the agreement makes it senseless."

The opinion of Greek pirates is that the creators of ACTA have deliberately concealed the treaty behind the mask of a trade agreement precisely to avoid public discussion about an international agreement. "If the agreement was discussed within the World Trade Organization or other international forum, this would happen in a specific democratic order. The ACTA agreement, however, had always been discussed behind closed doors for several years and became known early last autumn. The discussion started in 2006 with the beginning of the discussion between Japan and the USA. The European Union, Canada and Switzerland became involved in the negotiations in 2006 - 2007, and Australia, Morocco, New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore in 2008."

Countries outside Europe signed the Agreement on 31 October 2011. Germany, Estonia, Cyprus and two more have not signed it so far, but the reasons are formal."

The agreement consists of 50 pages and is intended to restrict trade in goods, which are protected by copyright or patent. "But things are different in practice. Firstly, the agreement applies in the virtual world what it defines in the real one. Thus, while some things seem logical in the real world, such as counterfeit copy of brand name shoes, then, things are very complicated in the digital world.  We believe that ACTA drafters have introduced in the agreement legislation they could not pass in a different way.

ACTA's weakness is that it burdens Internet providers with criminal liability for everything traded in their network if it is a copy of something copyrighted. To accomplish this, the sharing of everything except maybe just our personal e-mails has to be banned." According to Anestis Samourkasidis, the more serious problem is that ACTA turns Internet providers into a kind of private police forced to monitor what we download to our computers and vice versa. "If they really put filters that can continuously monitor the information exchange among ourselves - a song, video, photo or text, to see if it is protected by copyright, with their help they can violate our rights, such as the right to communicate or the freedom of expression." He stressed that this will create a private police force to act without judicial control and it will check all Internet users without exception.

ACTA offers the same rights to customs officers, who will be able to block the export of seeds, if a corporation says they contain genetic material it has patented. Similarly, the so-called generic medicines would be blocked, if a company claims that they contain a patented ingredient. "There is no court intervention in all cases described. This means that customs officers can block and destroy a cargo, and the case will be considered later. The exporter may claim compensation from the company, which has filed false claims. The problem is what happens in the meantime. The exporting company may have ceased operations and the failure of supplying the seeds could cause humanitarian catastrophes. That is why pirate parties firmly protest against patents on genetic materials."

According to Anestis, the agreement is very general and does not contain the specifics and clarity defining legal texts. "It is planned for a committee to be established that will meet and change the content of the agreement after its signing, and that will be allowed to include whatever it decides. In practice, it is like being told, "You signed the agreement and ratified it in your parliaments. From now on, we will decide."

For this purpose, protests across Europe will be held on 11 February. ACTA will be the subject of debate in the European Parliament by mid-summer. Therefore, the Greek pirate party believes that the protests against the agreement are yet to increase.

Tags: SocietyInternetACTA agreementPirate partyProtestsCorporationsPatentsHumanitarian crisisPolice control
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