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Thousands Turn Out Across Europe to Protest ACTA, Four Countries Back Off Signing Treaty

Yesterday, thousands turned out across over 200 European cities to protests the Anti-Counterfeiting Trademark Agreement or ACTA. Like SOPA and PIPA in the U.S., ACTA (among other things) aims to create tougher penalties and grant broad new powers to law enforcement to stop the transmission of copyrighted works over the Internet. With the European Parliament poised to vote on ACTA in June, it’s yet unknown what effect these protests will have.

According to the Associated Press, protests against ACTA were widespread. They list 25,000 protestors across Germany; 4,000 in Sofia, Bulgaria; 300 in Bucharest, Romania; 500 in Warsaw, Poland; 1,000 in Paris, France; 1,500 in Prague, Czech Republic; 2,000 in Cluj, Romania; 1,000 in Budapest, Hungary; and 600 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Another 200 protestors appeared in London say reports from the BBC.

Meanwhile, government officials from European nations continue to insist that the treaty would not create new laws, merely lower the barriers for enforcement across borders.

The BBC reports that the German government has delayed signing the treaty on Friday, prior to the protests, to provide time for further discussion. The Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia have also delayed proceeding on the treaty, presumably in the face of protests in those countries.

Unfortunately, some news agencies — the AP in particular — seemed to be saying that losing the ability to download copyrighted movies and music for free was the key issue at stake in these protests. While that may be the case for some protestors, there are very real reasons why this kind of far-reaching legislation is worrisome. Our own James Plafke describes just a few of those concerns thusly:

A general concern with ACTA is that could make ISPs responsible for their users’ copyright infringements, which would lead to ISPs implement some kind of nefarious surveillance in order to protest themselves. Along with that, users could end up blacklisted from ISPs if they’re caught infringing on copyright a few times, and as we know, copyright infringement is a mucky territory to delve into, and you might be taking part in it without actually being aware you are.

In case you’re keeping score at home, ACTA has already been signed by Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and the good ol’ U.S. of A.

(AP, BBC, TorrentFreak via Techmeme, image via

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