The Two-Way
2:58 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Germany Puts Off Signing Global Anti-Piracy Agreement

Germany is putting off signing an international anti-piracy accord known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

ACTA, as the agreement is known, has been controversial for years. In many ways, it's been controversial in the same way that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has been in the United States.

We reported about the accord back in 2009, but slowly it's been watered down and signed by many countries including the United States, Japan and many European countries.

What's it all about? It's complicated. Timothy Lee at Ars Technica has a good primer, and he boils it down in this paragraph:

"More generally, the treaty continues the one-way ratchet toward ever-stronger copyright protections. ACTA establishes a new, higher minimum of copyright protections and enforcement that countries must provide, but it doesn't require countries to preserve mechanisms like fair use and intermediary immunity that protect intellectual freedom."

Germany was fully expected to agree to the treaty, but according to the BBC, it delayed signing to "give us time to carry out further discussions." The BBC adds that Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have also delayed ratification.

Forbes reports that Germany's balk is a big deal.

"Germany is Europe's biggest economy, and if they refuse to sign this could spell the end for the international agreement, which touches on everything from online piracy to seed patents," reports Forbes.

Germany's The Local, an English language news site in the country, reports that Germany's decision might have been affected by popular sentiment against the treaty. There have already been protests in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Along with residents of other countries, Germans are planning a "massive anti-ACTA" protest in 60 German cities on Saturday.

On a small side note, to preview the protests, the BBC has asked Alan Moore, the writer of V for Vendetta, to explore the connection the Guy Fawkes mask has to the global protest movement in favor of Internet freedom.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.