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A New Question of Internet Freedom

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Anti-ACTA protests

In January, lawmakers in Poland held up masks to protest the ratifying of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

Credit: Pawel Supernak/European Pressphoto Agency

European activists are taking a page from the recent U.S. Web protests to halt the progress of domestic antipiracy legislation, and applying similar pressure to stop the international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which is designed to crack down on unlawful trade in trademarked and copyrighted goods.

The pact aims to support a unified framework of civil and criminal procedures to stop illegal commerce of goods and properties, giving intellectual property rights holders the means to shutter counterfeiters and pirates by working through courts outside their national jurisdictions.

Critics warn that treaty negotiations were conducted without sufficient input from the public, and they say the measure will reduce Internet freedom and choke innovation. "ACTA is about enforcing existing intellectual property rights and about acting against large-scale infringements often pursued by criminal organizations, and not about pursuing individual citizens," says the European Union's John Clancy.

U.S. trade representative Ron Kirk said in October that shielding intellectual property was "essential to American jobs in innovative and creative industries" and that ACTA "provides a platform for the Obama administration to work cooperatively with other governments to advance the fight against counterfeiting and piracy."

From New York Times
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