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Protests in Poland over a SOPA-like agreement

Protests in Poland over a SOPA-like agreement

January 24, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

SOPA and PIPA have been shelved for the time being, but a similar international agreement is the subject of protests in Poland today.

Several Polish sites have "blacked out" to protest their country's signing of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, an international equivalent of the Stop Online Piracy Act denounced by many video game developers and free speech advocates.

Much like SOPA, ACTA seeks to combat copyright infringement online, as well as counterfeit goods and medicine. And as with SOPA, ACTA has been condemned by critics and called "a major threat to freedom of expression online [that] creates legal uncertainty for internet companies."

Digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation claims ACTA would create a new global IP enforcement institution, and would "strengthen intellectual property enforcement norms between signatory countries, handing overbroad powers to the content industry to preserve their antiquated business model."

And many have accused ACTA's authors, which include governments from 39 countries, of secretly negotiating the treaty instead of passing it through traditional channels, under the scrutiny of the checks and balances of various international organizations. The European Union Parliament is currently reviewing the agreement for its possible enactment.

While the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Morocco have already signed the international copyright treaty, Poland will become the first European country to join the agreement after its scheduled signing of ACTA on Thursday.

Hundreds of people protested the treaty in front of Warsaw's European Union office today, and a number of popular Polish sites have temporarily gone down to express their disapproval over the government's decision to sign the agreement, according to French news agency AFP.

The online blackout mimics the campaign many websites like Wikipedia, Reddit, and Gamasutra participated in last week to protest against SOPA's passing in the U.S. House of Representatives, and its complementary Protect IP Act in the Senate. Both unpopular bills have been postponed for now.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, however, says that unlike the U.S., his government will not give in to protestors, or to the demands of hackers that have attacked the government's sites recently. He promised at a news conference today, "There will be no concessions to brutal blackmail."

Just as U.S. game companies like Epic Games (Gears of War), Riot Games (League of Legends), and Microsoft denounced SOPA over privacy concerns, Polish firms like digital distribution platform (owned by The Witcher publisher CD Projekt) have come out against ACTA.

Responding to SOPA's shelving, said in a statement, "While this is definitely a victory for free speech, it's worth noting that here in Europe, ACTA is very likely to pass this week and it has virtually all of the same flaws that SOPA or PIPA did."

The Polish company continued, "So while we're pleased about the news from across the pond, I'd say that vigilance is important, because this fight isn't over yet for you or for us."

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