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Protests against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement erupted across Europe Feb. 11, according to British Broadcasting Corporation public service broadcaster.

“ACTA is an international trade agreement that will help countries work together to tackle more effectively large-scale Intellectual Property Rights violations,” according to the official website of the European Commission, which is the executive body of the European Union.

The BBC presented the protesters’ fear that the agreement will “limit freedom of speech online.”

There are many opposing views and ideas about what the agreement states and for what it stands. The Digital Commons repository of the American University Washington College of Law stated that “ACTA is primarily a copyright treaty, masquerading as a treaty that addresses dangerous medicines and defective imports. ACTA will be the new international standard for intellectual property enforcement, and will likely cause legislative changes in countries around the world.”

The “ACTA Action Now!” website demonstrated a similar stance when it stated, “ACTA would curtail the rights and freedoms of citizens around the world, including freedom from warrantless search and seizure and the right to privacy.”

However, in contrast to the portrayal of the agreement by the repository and “ACTA Action Now!” the commission depicted ACTA in a much more positive light and addressed the common misconceptions about the accord, stating that ACTA will not monitor the Internet, change EU law, favor industry over fundamental rights, prevent people from sharing content online or prevent poor countries from buying cheap medicines.

Since October 2011, ACTA has already been signed by 29 countries, including its original creators, Japan and the United States – along with 22 of the European Union’s 27 members states – as well as several other countries, as stated on stopacta.info.

Stopacta.info states, “The signature of ACTA by European countries does not mean the deal is done, needs to be ratified by the European Parliament.”

The website also said that Parliament will vote no later than June 2012 to either ratify or reject ACTA.

The agreement’s domestic coverage within the United States has been muted in comparison with 2011’s Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act and has hit Europe a lot harder than here, asserted the podcast of the non-profit Washington, D.C.-based public interest group “Public Knowledge.” Some online news resources, such as News24, attribute this to Europe’s sensitivity regarding its history with the Gestapo and Stasi secret police over online censorship and increased surveillance. Others, such as the “PK,” attribute it to the legal limitations of ACTA in the US because of the Constitution and the current state of U.S. copyright law.

The final text as completed in May 2011 for the anti-piracy agreement can be downloaded on trade.ec.europa.eu.

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