But little evidence suggests ACTA would enforce censorship
New measures to prevent internet piracy across Europe has sparked both criticism and debate online.
The ‘Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement’ – a legal understanding between ‘participating’ nations around the world –protects companies from trademark and copyright infringement, which is rampant across the internet.
Countries in the EU ready to sign the agreement, particularly Poland, have been targeted by internet attacks on government websites by groups such as Anonymous who believe ACTA could lead to a form of online censorship.
Some Polish websites have also pledged to stage blackouts in protest to the government’s pledge to sign.
Michael Boni, Poland’s minister for administration and digitisation, hit back to criticism stating that ACTA “in no way changes Polish laws or the rights of internet users and internet usage”.
Comparisons have been made to the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, which was recently “indefinitely postponed” by congress in the US.
Whilst debates continue over the consequences of ACTA, the agreement does not appear to directly allow as far-reaching measures as its US counterpart, such as the blocking and removal of websites by companies.
Any potential action against internet service providers (ISPs) would also be in contradiction against currently to a ruling made by The European Court of Justice ruled in November. It stated that EU law precludes injunctions taken against ISPs requiring them to block users from file sharing.
Previous versions of the bill seemed to suggest that ISPs would be forced into handing over personal data concerning their users if accused of streaming or illegally downloading copyrighted material.
The authors of the agreement denied this claim.
Polish trade body ZAIKS, which represents a group of authors and composers, has said that ACTA would in fact not affect the freedom of the internet, but would protect creators’ rights.
One issue with the treaty is the ambiguous nature in which it has been drafted. There appears to be no definitive, clear instruction on what rights holders and ISPs can do to prevent online piracy.
They are however encouraged in the agreement to establish a set of guidelines for the actions which should be taken.