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The World From Berlin: 'ACTA Criticism is Hysterical and Misinformed'

Thousands protested across Europe at the weekend against an international anti-piracy agreement they fear will stop them downloading free music and movies and encourage internet surveillance. German media commentators criticize the agreement -- but say it's impact is being exaggerated.  

Demonstrators against the ACTA anti-piracy agreement in Berlin on Saturday. Zoom
dapd

Demonstrators against the ACTA anti-piracy agreement in Berlin on Saturday.

Tens of thousands of protesters took part in demonstrations across Europe on Saturday against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), an international anti-piracy deal they fear will curb their freedom to download movies and music for free and encourage Internet surveillance.

More than 25,000 demonstrators braved freezing temperatures in German cities and there were marches in Britain, France, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia as well.

There is especially strong opposition to ACTA in Eastern Europe, where downloading films and music is a popular way of obtaining free entertainment, and where demonstrators have likened the agreement to the surveillance used by former Communist regimes.

Eight countries including Japan and the United States signed an agreement in October to cut copyright and trademark theft. The signing was hailed as a step toward bringing ACTA into effect. Negotiations over ACTA have been going on for several years. It has not yet been signed or ratified in many countries. Germany said on Friday it would hold off on signing.

The accord has sparked concerns, especially in Eastern European countries as well as in Germany, mindful of its Communists and Nazi history, over online censorship and increased monitoring.

German media commentators say it was wrong to negotiate the agreement in secret and without involving the Internet community. But some argue that intellectual copyright needs to be better protected, and that ACTA isn't as sinister as it being made out to be.

Left-wing Berliner Zeitung writes:

"It is unacceptable to negotiate an agreement as far-reaching as ACTA in secret talks and to give the entertainment industry direct access to provider data. But it is equally wrong to permit the owners of intellectual property to be robbed in the name of Internet freedom. That is why a reasonable international agreement is needed, transparently negotiated and sensibly constructed. It is time the people involved realize how important the Internet is."

Left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes:

"The large demonstrations over the weekend are a strong signal from a politically underestimated, largely young Internet generation that is defending itself vigorously against restrictions on freedom of movemet in the Internet. ACTA isn't any old trade agreement. The agreement will create the legal framework for curbing citizen's rghts in order to secure long-term profits for an outdated monopolistic rights industry.

"Backed by this show of pan-European solidarity, (German) Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger could seriously try to stop ACTA now. But a failure of ACTA would only be an interim victory. International secret talks for an ACTA successor treaty are already underway: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is one of the ugly ACTA twins currently being prepared by the US and nine Pacific countries. A leaked TPP draft reads like a 'take your pick' list for the rights industry. It goes beyond the barbarities against Internet users and providers that were planned, but couldn't be agreed, with ACTA. TPP could turn into a blueprint for a global 'ACTA plus.'"

Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"The aim of the agreement is to fight brand piracy and copyright infringements. There's nothing wrong with that intention. The criticism, which is in parts hysterical, is based on false information that has been constantly repeated and multiplied in the Web. It also stems from a lack of understanding that intellectual property is real property that has a value and should be protected. This lack of understanding in turn largely stems from the fact that copyright usually isn't seen as the right of authors, musicians and composers, who have to live from the fruit of their work, but as the power of large corporate empires who have purchased the usage rights from the authors, musicians and composers.

"Internet activists fear that ACTA will establish a surveillance regime in the Internet to aggressively and excessively protect the interests of the creative industry. But there is no sign that this agreement will do that. It contains no demand for censoring the Internet and providers aren't being obliged to monitor Internet usage; making private copies isn't declared illegal and no new crimes are defined. Critics claim all this is happening, but there's no word of this in the agreement.

"This contract is not acutely dangerous, only potentially dangerous - - firstly because it is so vaguely formulated that it gives rise to fears that aren't warranted by its wording. Secondly because these fears are nurtured by the secrecy with which this treaty was negotiated among the EU, US, Japan and eight further states -- without any involvement by the network community and without the World Intellectual Property Organization.

"All measures demanded in ACTA to protect copyright are already part of German law."

David Crossland

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