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Like SOPA, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement draws ire

After shooting down the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), protesters opposing broad online antipiracy legislation have a new target: the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. And this time, the protests are on a global scale.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is designed to establish international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement. It establishes legal frameworks for targeting counterfeit goods, generic medicines and Internet copyright infringement. The agreement was signed by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States in late 2011. Last month, the European Union and 22 of its member states joined them.

But protesters — perhaps bolstered by the shelving of SOPA of Project IP — are not allowing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement to go through without a fight. The international citizens group Avaaz is seeking 2 million signatures for a petition to drop the agreement (it already has 1.75 million). Last weekend, thousands of people marched in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana to protest it. The worldwide protests have led some countries, including Poland, to delay the agreements ratification process.

Supporters of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement say it would decrease pirating of copyrighted works. Intellectual property-based organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America helped with its development. Protesters, however, say it is an assault on freedom of expression and that opinions from all sides were not considered in the negotiation process.

Do these traits sound familiar?

Protesters showed what can be done after legislators backed off of SOPA and Project IP following public outcry. Now, with the whole world watching, they’re trying to get their voices heard again.

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