Europeans protest controversial Internet pact

Protest against ACTA in Sofia today
Protesters hold a a banner and wear Guy Fawkes masks during a protest against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in downtown Sofia. Tens of thousands of people marched in protests in more than a dozen European cities Saturday against a controversial anti-online piracy pact that critics say could curtail Internet freedom.

Tens of thousands of people marched in protests in more than a dozen European cities Saturday against a controversial anti-online piracy pact that critics say could curtail Internet freedom.

Some 41,000 people rallied in Germany, including 16,000 in Munich and 10,000 in Berlin, against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was negotiated between the 27-nation European Union and 10 other countries.

Many brandishing "Stop ACTA" banners and wearing Guy Fawkes masks -- a symbol of hacker-led rallies -- the mostly young protestors also braved subzero temperatures to mass in cities such as Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius, Vienna and Paris.

ACTA is awaiting ratification from several governments, but sharp opposition led by Internet users has forced some EU states including Poland, the and Slovakia to freeze their ratification process.

In Sofia, more than 3,000 demonstrators marched along major downtown boulevards, booing at the buildings of government and parliament.

Shouting "No to ACTA!" and "Mafia!", they accused the government of signing the agreement secretly and without consulting the public.

In Tallinn, where about 1,500 turned out, lawmakers widened their criticism of ACTA to an attack on the country's leadership.

"Estonia's PM Ansip has often demonstrated that government decisions in Estonia are born somewhere in hidden cellars," charged lawmaker Juku-Kalle Raid, whose party governs with Andrus Ansip's Reform Party.

"The current case with ACTA only indicated that once again a decision was to be made without discussion with people," added the .

The meanwhile published an eight-page document detailing the negotiation process of the , as it sought to defend itself against accusations of opacity.

"The EU strongly denies having provided any kind of preferential access to information to any group of stakeholders," it said.

"There are also no secret protocols to the agreement and the final text is fully public and available to all citizens on the website of the European Commission," it added.

ACTA was signed last year in Tokyo, and aims to bolster international standards for intellectual property protection, for example by doing more to fight counterfeit medicine and other goods.

But its attempt to attack illegal downloading and Internet file-sharing has sparked angry protests from users, who fear it could curtail online freedom.

"I am here because I am against censorship on the Internet, against the attempts to limit the freedom of information and against corporate interests which trample on human rights," 27-year-old Maya Nikolova told AFP at the Sofia rally.

Many Bulgarian musicians were also seen in the crowd. They claimed that they rarely ever get any copyright royalties anyway but were ready to sacrifice whatever little they do earn for the sake of .

In Vilnius, one of the organisers, Mantas Kondratavicius, told AFP: "I see a big threat to freedom of speech and privacy. Some provisions of the treaty are too ambiguous and allow different interpretations."

"If ACTA is approved, the understanding of human rights and privacy would change and there can be no way back," warned the 21-year-old.

"I don't deny that authors should be paid but that cannot be done at the expense of privacy or freedom of speech," he stressed.

Meanwhile, a small group on Facebook chose to protest through blood donations.

"Blood is a life-giving power, just as information and ideas are for the web. Join our symbolic way to show that sharing is not a crime but has vital importance," its organisers said.

Besides the EU, other signatories of ACTA are Australia, Canada, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States.

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(c) 2012 AFP

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Feb 12, 2012
As a professional musician, producer and songwriter I can say from the inside: internet freedom is actually good for the artists and authors because we do not make money from royalties, that is the business of the media tycoons, the artists do not see nothing but a small fraction of the royalties so it is no surprise the only ones actually pushing for such pacts and laws treats are the powerful media corporations.

It is a real embarrassment as a human being to see our world being ruled by such corporations all the while the wishes and needs of the population are largely ignored by the governments...

Feb 12, 2012
The only reason why copyright and the concept of intellectual property was invented in the first place was so that publishers could make more money.

Without copyright, publishers could not secure exclusive rights and the prices remained low. If someone tried to ask more than what was necessary, the business would shift in favor of a competitor. The real supply, the author, had great bargaining power and could get rich if the demand was great.

It was basically free market as it should work.

But by arguing that the author had some rights to a piece of work even after it has been sold, the producers secured themselves the power to negotiate a monopoly over the works, and thus the ability to profit greatly through limiting the supply - simply because the authors now had to enter a contract with a publisher before they could get their work printed.

Now the publishers had the upper hand in everything. No monopoly, no contract. No contract, no pay. No pay, no author.

That's how it works

Feb 12, 2012
A world without copyright actually favors the artist, because it gives him direct power to profit from his work. If people like your stuff, they'll line up with cash to say "More, please". But it's also a world where you have to keep working because you can't compose a copyright portfolio and just rake in the royalties until you die.

Some will ask, what about the printing presses, the bookstores and the publishers then? Well, they'd still be there. They're offering a service paid for by the people who want access to the works of art. Only, the prices are lower because they reflect the true cost of distributing the material.

As it stands now with copyright in place, the "Content Industry" is a huge leech on the society because it takes what has become cheap, and makes it artifically expensive, and all it really does is waste material and intellectual resources on trivialities.

We don't need to pay the middle man so much for it.

(As for the other IP, that's what patents are for.)

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