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European ACTA discussions close

Workshop shows how passionate the arguments are
Fri Mar 02 2012, 13:19

THERE WERE IMPASSIONED SCENES at a European Parliament workshop about the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), with 600 people attending and apparently too noisy.

The ACTA workshop was held in Brussels, organised by the INTA Committee of the European Parliament, and among those in attendance was Peter Bradwell of the Open Rights Group.

"A year ago, a workshop on IP policy would have been a niche affair, dominated by promises to crack down on internet piracy and little meaningful debate or scrutiny of the proposals about how to do so," he blogged on returning from the event.

"But yesterday's workshop saw, according to some, around 600 people subjecting those kind of proposals to the light of unprecedented public scrutiny. It was great to see the energy generated by protests and criticisms across Europe manifesting itself in one of Europe's key decision making forums," he added. "It was especially heartening to see so many MEPs critical of the way that ACTA was written and asking such sharp questions of its provisions."

Some were more critical of the proceedings, however. "At #ACTA workshop in EP. Twice as much time for pro-ACTA speakers than critical ones," tweeted David Hammerstein, a European consumer advocate.

European trade commissioner Karel de Gucht was taking a tough line. "Europe needs #ACTA which is why we engaged in difficult negotiationsm," he said, pushing for approval of the treaty.

"At the #ACTA workshop in the European Parliament. De Gucht thinks the agreement is great," commented the Pirate Party's Amelia Andersdotter, who was also in attendance. She said that de Gucht added that it is "important that the parliament makes its own political and economic evaluation," of the debates around it.

The mood seems to have been very much against ACTA though, and other messages suggest that there was too much applause when some comments were made.

"I think it is fair to say that the representatives of the European Commission - who are seen as the villains of the piece for leading on negotiating ACTA and now downplaying many of the problems with it - got a roasting," added Bradwell.

Tweets at the time suggested that applauding might be banned during the proceedings and any over-zealous clappers could be removed from the room.

Much of the applause was directed at Professor Michael Geist, who during a panel said that the discussion should have taken place two years ago when the agreement was conceived.

This forthright statement gained him many fans, including Karsten Gerloff, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe.

According to Bradwell, there seemed to be a European Parliament agenda to downplay problems with the agreement, and this sentiment was echoed elsewhere. The people of Europe might need to step up popular pressure on their politicians in order to defeat this ill-advised, draconian treaty. µ


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