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Poland appears to have beaten a hasty, possibly temporary, retreat over ACTA, as a wave of mass protests forced a U-turn.

Poland  may have signed ACTA (Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement), but will not ratify it for the time being. The   Polish government  has caved in to the demands of young protesters who marched through the streets of several Polish cities last week,  angry  that ACTA would result in censorship of the Internet.   

The Polish Parliament was due to confirm its acceptance of ACTA – ratification – last week. But according to several  news reports, the decision not to do so was confirmed by the Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk.

Mr Tusk   appears to have admitted that the view of the Internet users were not sufficiently consulted.    He is due to have a meeting with representatives of the marchers this coming week.

This is an  apparent U-turn  in a  manic week. On 26 January, the day of  the marches, Mr Tusk is on the record as saying he ‘would not give in to blackmail.’

 For those who haven’t followed this strange turn of events, there were mass protests in the capital, Warsaw, as well as Cracow, Kielce  and other  cities across  Poland on 26 January. Thousands of people came out in the freezing cold to protest against ACTA, a secretly –negotiated international copyright agreement. One of the largest protests was in Cracow , where a crowd of 30,000 marched  noisily through the streets shouting ‘No to ACTA’.  Others had tape over their mouth, indicating their view that ACTA would result in Internet censorship. Click  link to video - this one was taken by someone on the march, it must be seen to be believed.

The protests have been shaken, if not stirred, by the mysterious hacker group, Anonymous, which attacked Polish government websites on  23 January, a couple of days before the marches. Anonymous has put anti-ACTA videos on YouTube.  Many of the protesters wore the medieval Anonymous masks. Polish government websites were taken down by electronic attacks, allegedly carried out by the group.

 There was a calmer  protest in the Polish Parliament, where a group of  elected representatives covered their faces with  Anonymous masks.

However, the confusion is what the non-ratification actually means. ACTA was negotiated by the European Commision, and by the Member States. The Commission was only responsible for the civil provisions. The Member States are responsible for the criminal measures.

It would seem therefore, that  the European Commission would ratify the entire agreement, with the civil provisions, and that Poland, as a Member State, would  individually only ratify the criminal measures.

 It is not clear whether there is any way that  Poland, or any other member state, could exercise a veto  in the Council of Ministers. What is clear is that the European Parliament vote to give consent to ACTA will be critical.

 The Polish question is likely to repeat itself in other European countries. There were more protests this week-end in Sweden, where around a thousand people gathered in Stockholm

 in sub-zero temperatures ( I’m told is was minus 18 C) and in Slovenia. Swedish government websites were also taken down, allegedly by Anonymous.

Protests are being organised Europe-wide for next Saturday, 11 February.

You may re-publish my article under a Creative Commons licence, but you should cite my name and provide a link back to Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten,  Polish protests force U-turn on ACTA, 5 February  2012 . Commercial users - please contact me.

Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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