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ACTA: Anti-piracy treaty faces further setbacks in Europe

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The highly controversial Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) has hit another wall. On Tuesday, both the Dutch and Bulgarian governments refused to ratify the international anti-piracy treaty, at least for the moment. This follows decisions by Germany and Poland, which have also delayed their decision to ratify ACTA until a later date.

While Bulgaria has already signed ACTA, Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov announced that the country’s government will not take any further steps to ratify the treaty until there is clear consensus among European Union countries. So far, 22 of the 27 EU states have signed ACTA, along with the US, Australia, Japan, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Morocco, and Singapore, all of which signed the treaty last October. Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia, Cyprus, and Slovakia have not yet signed the agreement.

“We see a radical change in the attitude to this agreement in the EU,” Traikov told Bloomberg. “There’s lack of unanimity. Bulgaria won’t take any action in regard to implementing ACTA, including ratification, until there is a unified position of all EU states.”

Traikov added that the copyright industry “hasn’t adapted to the digital age,” which makes him skeptical that intellectual property should be regulated “through sanctions rather than market means.”

Moreover, the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament has put its support behind a motion from the Green Left party, which seeks to delay action on ACTA, according to a report from Radio Netherlands Worldwide. The Dutch government’s reasons for not moving forward on the treaty echo that of Bulgaria.

ACTA’s continued delay in the EU follows mass protests against the treaty in cities across Europe. Tens of thousands of anti-ACTA protesters reportedly took to the streets this past weekend, 4,000 of which demonstrated in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia.

Sponsored by the US and Japan, ACTA seeks to set international standards for intellectual property law, which include civil and criminal penalties for copyright infringement. If enacted, ACTA would also establish a new independent government body to oversee the enforcement of copyright law.

While EU officials assert that nothing will change for European citizens if ACTA were ratified, critics fear that the establishment of ACTA could hamper free speech, stifle online innovation, and threaten the distribution of generic medicine to developing nations.

The European Parliament is set to vote on ACTA ratification in June.

[Image via pirati.cz/Flickr]

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