Following yesterday’s signing of the ACTA treaty by the UK, Justin Cooke, chair of the British Interactive Media Association has queried the consultation process over the regulation.
Yesterday saw the UK, along with 21 other European countries sign the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), provoking protests in Poland, with the Polish Government’s website coming under attack from hacking group Anonymous as a result of its support for the treaty.
Another bizarre spectacle was witnessed within the Polish Parliament by the Palikot's Movement which held Guy Fawkes masks up in front of their faces in protest.
The treaty, which will not be ratified until June, aims to settle many copyright issues that have arisen through the internet, and will lead to criminal prosecutions of those caught breaking intellectual property laws from around the globe.
Justin Cooke, chair of the British Interactive Media Association, said: “The internet impacts the lives and livelihoods of millions. Any regulation needs to be a very consultative process and I can’t say that we’ve seen that here. Importantly though, ACTA is yet to be ratified by the EU and we’ll be seeking active debate between now and June.”
Meanwhile, Intellectual Property and media lawyer Steve Kuncewicz warned that protests on a similar scale to those that saw the defeat of SOPA and PIPA bills in the US were likely to be witnessed closer to the ratification date, which led to President Barack Obama getting cold feet over the passing of the bills as a result.
“There’s still time for people to object to it and there’s a lot to be said about how hard it is to protect IP around the world. People have been trying to do it for a long time…piracy is a problem but the worry is that you end up with these ‘sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut’ initiatives like this and like the Digital Economy act where you really are changing the atmosphere in which copyright is protected quite substantially,” said Kuncewicz.
“I would imagine that this will create an awful lot of fear. People will be very worried and if nothing else it will increase what we call ‘the take down culture’. There are a lot of laws in place already to deal with copyright infringement…If it creates an atmosphere where people start respecting online copyright then that is a good thing. But the key to this is that the Government has to spend a lot more time investing in education and soundbite campaigns explaining to people what the infringement is, what you can do and what you can’t do. The worry is that this will sneak in without any real debate. Certainly businesses could find themselves exposed to a lot more risk,” he added.