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Europe's Internet revolt: protesters see threats in antipiracy treaty

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Protests have been as much virtual as in the flesh. An online petition calling for the rejection of ACTA has been signed by more than 1.75 million people. Hackers have also targeted websites supporting the agreement. 

Industry bodies are concerned about ACTA's scope. "It would be a sad day for the European Internet industry if the [EU] parliament rushed on this," says Andrea D'Incecco, public affairs manager for EuroISPA, a group representing European Internet service providers. 

Mr. D'Incecco says ACTA would change European law, which currently requires a court order to be served on ISPs before they take action against unlawful online material. He also says the "secrecy" of the negotiations, initiated by the European Commission but until recently excluding the EU parliament, is a problem.

EuroISPA is in favor of combating infringement, but any strengthening of existing law requires "a proper democratic mandate determined by all of the EU institutions," he adds."We didn't have any real discussion in parliament until now, despite this treaty dating back five years."

A spokesperson for Marc Vanheukelen, EU trade commissioner, said ACTA was negotiated by the commission and member states, and public debate is not being ignored. "We welcome an open debate on it but, of course, we welcome a debate based on facts. There are a lot fears and myths around." 

Joe McNamee of the European Digital Rights (EDRI) lobby says ACTA's marriage of counterfeiting and unauthorized copying conflates two different problems and risks trivializing the issue of counterfeit medications, which can be damaging to health.

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