The U.S. Congress buried the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its cousin, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), following a wave of public protest earlier this year. With those pieces of legislation effectively taken off the table, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, has gained attention. A slew of countries, including the U.S., have signed the agreement, but skepticism rages on.
In this podcast, we chat with Andrew Kureth, the editor in chief of The Warsaw Business Journal. Backlash against ACTA been especially strong in Poland, where tens of thousands have protested in the streets and where members of parliament donned Guy Fawkes masks in protest. Kureth talks about ACTA and why it is that Poles are so adamant about the issue.
Listen to the podcast (13:07 minutes).
TechNewsWorld: We are doing a multi-part podcast about ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. It’s designed to get countries from around the world on the same page when it comes to copyright infringement and enforcement.
In Part I of this podcast, we broke down some of the nuances and language of the agreement with David Meyer, who is a technology reporter for BBC News, ZDNet and a few other outlets.
Today we’re going to be moving away from the agreement itself and talking a little bit about the reaction to ACTA. And it seems like nowhere has the reaction been stronger than in Poland. There were an estimated 20,000 people who protested after Poland signed the agreement in late January. There were also members of Polish parliament who donned the Guy Fawkes masks preferred by the Anonymous hacker group. So we’re going to try to get an understanding of what’s going on in Poland with this reaction.
And to do so we’re going to welcome in Andrew Kureth, who’s the editor-in-chief of the Warsaw Business Journal. Andrew, thanks a lot for taking the time to chat, I appreciate it.
Thank you for having me.
TNW: I guess, first off, the reaction seems like it’s been very strong in Poland and it’s getting a lot of play in international news. I’m curious, from your perspective, is the media coverage accurate? Is it as big of a deal as it’s being portrayed as?
That’s a tough question to answer. I think it’s a very big deal amongst the young people, certainly from, say, 15 or 18 to 30. It’s a huge deal. Certainly, it has absolutely been an issue that has gripped the Polish public. There have been protests throughout the country — in Warsaw, there was a huge protest in Krakow.
Poles are very Internet-savvy. So there are two sides to that. There are a lot of people in Poland who understand the Internet very well, a lot of tech people here, programmers, are continually awarded, so they really know a lot about what’s going on, so they’re very informed about issues on the Internet and protecting Internet freedom.
On the other hand, it’s not exactly the richest country in the European Union, and for that reason pirating and getting free content off the Internet is also very popular. I think those folks, especially, see that in danger, so there’s that I think.
I don’t think that people particularly understand ACTA very well. But they understand that Wikipedia protested against SOPA and PIPA, they understand that Anonymous doesn’t like this particular bit of legislation, so they’re very fearful of what it could do, although I’m not sure they understand the legislation.
TNW: If you were going to say what the root of the resistance is, do you think it comes down to kind of a freedom of speech sort of philosophy? Or does it have just as much to do with the idea that the Internet might not be as easy of a place to find free and cheap movies and TV shows and stuff? Can you pinpoint the root of the resistance to this?
Well I think it’s a little of both. There are a lot of protests around this because of worries of censorship. There’s a lot of signs you that say, “No to Internet censorship,” and that sort of thing. But I don’t think it’s particularly connected to people being worried about being able to express themselves. I don’t think people here are worried that ACTA is going to keep them from expressing their political views, for example.
I think that it’s more about, not only finding cheap or free films and music, but about finding information. There are worries that the legislation is ambiguous and will allow large, vested interests to make an accusation and a website will have to shut down because of those accusations that the burden of proof will be on the accused rather than the accuser.