Europe, Bulgaria Rise against ACTA
International protests against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, ACTA, are expected in at least 150 cities across Europe Saturday.
In Bulgaria protests, organized through the social network Facebook, will take place in 15 cities, starting at 11 am.
Marches will be held in Bulgaria's largest cities of Varna, Plovdiv, Burgas, Gabrovo, Ruse, Haskovo, and Yambol, among others.
In the capital Sofia, the rally begins in front of the National Palace of Culture and will end on the square in front of the building of the Parliament, where a meeting will be held.
Germany has halted signing the controversial anti-piracy accord, after the justice ministry voiced concerns. Latvia also put off ratification on Friday. Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have already delayed the process.
On January 26, the Bulgarian government signed in Tokyo the international ACTA agreement, vowing to make downloading content similar to forgery of brands.
The agreement was sealed by Bulgarian ambassador to Japan Lyubomir Todorov, based on a decision by the Bulgarian cabinet taken hastily on January 11.
22 out of the 27 EU member states have signed ACTA, along with countries such as the USA, Japan, Canada, Australia, South Korea and Switzerland.
Among EU Member States, Germany, Cyprus, Estonia, Slovakia and the Netherlands have postponed their signing.
ACTA, abbreviation for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, mandates that signatory countries implement legislation to criminalize certain types of downloading content such as music and movies, from sites not sanctioned by rights owners, such as torrent trackers.
According to the agreement, such actions will be classified as similar to counterfeiting, and will carry heavier sanctions, including confiscation.
The treaty also will require Internet providers to provide information about the traffic of their users.
In order to become effective in Bulgaria, ACTA must first be ratified by the European Parliament and then by the Bulgarian Parliament, which is expected to happen no earlier than June.
Transcripts from the meeting of the Council of Ministers from January 11 reveal that it had been Economy and Energy Minister, Traicho Traikov, who had made the proposal.
Ever since the signing, ACTA stirred much discontent in Bulgaria, both because it had not been discussed by the cabinet and because the public had been kept entirely in the dark about the decision to sign it, until prominent Bulgarian bloggers and lawyers stirred large-scale noise about it. They lashed out at the signing of ACTA over their belief the agreement will bind countries to install legal regulations that excessively and unduly broadly penalize Internet users.
At the beginning of February, two Bulgarian NGOs – of Internet users and Internet service providers reached a handshake deal with the government in which Prime Minister Boyko Borisov promises that Bulgaria will ratify the ACTA with reservations.
Supporters of the treaty argue that the measures are necessary to clamp down on growing levels of piracy.
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