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Trade groups, including the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, have all been active in the agreement’s development and have pledged their support.

In September 2011, Christopher Dodd, the former Connecticut senator and current head of the MPAA, lauded the new agreement. “Intellectual property theft on an unprecedented, global scale is depriving creators and copyright owners of the return they deserve on their massive investments of creativity, expertise, and hard work, undermining the creative sector in every country,” he said.

In late January, Kader Arif, a French member of the European parliament, resigned from his position as the European rapporteur for ACTA and denounced the treaty “in the strongest possible manner” for having “no inclusion of civil society organizations and a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations.”

“This sudden eruption in Poland, in my opinion, was a sort of paradoxical reaction to a very long tome of silence,” says Katarzyna Szymielewicz, the cofounder of the Panoptykon Foundation, a Polish privacy activist group. “The society, including young and educated Internet users, used to be very passive in global, Internet-related debates like data retention or Internet blocking. Suddenly they ‘discovered’ that their government is about to finalize a very controversial agreement behind their backs and that this agreement may affect their daily life. They responded with an outrage, behaving a bit like a [shaken soda can].”

Some campaigners believe ACTA could even be misused for political ends, and see a parallel with the way Wikileaks came under financial pressure after releasing a trove of U.S. government communications last year. “Imagine a world where your business may have its existence threatened by vigilante measures—promoted by its own or foreign governments—by their hosting provider or their domain name registrar or domain name registry or advertising network or payment service provider,” says Joe McNamee, the head of European Digital Rights, a Brussels-based Internet advocacy group. “The threat is not theoretical, as Wikileaks shows.”

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Credit: AP/Fredrik Persson

Tagged: Computing, copyright, piracy, SOPA

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