TOP European official Kader Arif has quit in protest after the EU signed up to the ACTA anti-piracy treaty, which opponents say will fundamentally alter the nature of the internet.
The treaty, which must still be ratified by the European parliament, has been mired in controversy over its secret drafting. It aims to prevent counterfeiting and piracy, and introduces tougher sanctions on copyright theft. It has already been the subject of street protests in Poland, where politicians put on masks to support hacker group 'Anonymous'.
The Anonymous group itself says it is now preparing to mount a ‘huge operation’. The European Parliament has also previously voted against ACTA, saying that its negotiation has been undemocratic.
Kader Arif, rapporteur for ACTA in the European Parliament, resigned and wrote that “I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, exclusion of the EU Parliament's demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly.”
He said right-wing parties had “depriv[ed] the Parliament of its right to expression and of the tools at its disposal to convey citizens' legitimate demands. I will not take part in this masquerade.”
Although some of the most hostile elements of ACTA, such as the threat to deprive users of web access, have been removed in recent drafts. Criminal penalties for copyright infringement, or aiding and abetting it, have been negotiated behind closed doors.
The EU added its name to those of Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and the US, who signed up to the treaty in October 2011. A vote in the European Parliament is likely to take place in June.