ACTA error: Democracy not found

Members of Ruch Palikota Party wear masks during a vote of no confidence for Health Minister Bartosz Arlukowicz in Poland's parliament in Warsaw January 26, 2012 (Reuters / Wojciech Olkusnik / Agencja Gazeta)
As European parliaments reject the Anti-Counterfeiting trade Agreement on human rights grounds, some are asking why it was signed in the first place.

It looks like some of the countries who signed ACTA in Tokyo on January 26 are already having second thoughts.

I don’t know why I signed ACTA”, former Romanian prime minister Emil Boc said on February 6.

We made insufficient consultations before signing the agreement in late January," said Polish PM Donald Tusk on February 3, implying that his government had not taken steps to fully "ensure it was entirely safe for Polish citizens.”

A few days later Slovenia's foreign minister, who signed the agreement on behalf of her country, apologized for doing so: "Quite simply, I did not clearly connect the agreement I had been instructed to sign with the agreement that, according to my own civic conviction, limits and withholds freedom of engagement on the largest and most significant network in human history, and thus limits particularly the future of our children."

Lithuanian Justice Minister Remigijus Simasius wrote in his blog: “I don’t know where it came from and how it originated, but I don’t like that this treaty was signed skillfully avoiding discussions in the European Union and Lithuania.”

And last Saturday, thousands of people took part in coordinated protest across Europe. Over 200 cities were filled with crowds opposing the controversial agreement.

On Wednesday Bulgaria and The Netherlands withdrew Support in response to protests.

The question is – why was the agreement signed in the first place, if its chances of being ratified are dropping by the day?

The idea to impose a copyright regime was lobbied by the US and Japan.

The pretext was the protection of intellectual property, and to control Internet resources that could be used by terrorists or to incite riots and other criminal activity.

But in this case, governments will be able to force online service providers to disclose subscribers' information if an account was allegedly used for criminal activity or infringement of trademarks or copyrights.

There's an argument to be made that freedom and security are usually in opposition; the most secured people are in prison, where they hardly have any freedom. Usually, security comes at the price of freedom – and that’s exactly the cost of ACTA.

Professors Douwe Korff of London Metropolitan University and Ian Brown of the Oxford Internet Institute issued a report in August 2011 on the compatibility of ACTA with the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU charter of fundamental rights. Their conclusion: “Overall, ACTA tilts the balance of IPR protection manifestly unfairly towards one group of beneficiaries of the right to property, IP right holders, and unfairly against others.

Whether it tilts the balance of power intentionally or unintentionally is a central question. But those who were so quick to sign the agreement must have been misled about its complexity – and the reach of its powers

­Natalia Novikova, RT