Poland and Slovenia back away from ACTA

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Poland and Slovenia have said they won’t ratify an international copyright agreement that has infuriated internet users across the world.

The move marks a victory for grassroots activists who have been waging protests for weeks against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA.

The treaty aims to fight international property theft, including online piracy. But critics say it would violate freedom of expression and privacy on the internet.

The announcement is a potential blow to the United States, which has pushed ACTA as a way of defending industries that produce music, film and other intellectual property goods that are targets for piracy and illegal counterfeiting.

As opposition to ACTA spreads, it is not clear if it will be approved at European Union level either, potentially leaving a large part of the world out of the system.

Although Poland signed the treaty last month, prime minister Donald Tusk said yesterday the country was abandoning plans for ratification. He said he now sees his earlier support for the deal as a mistake.

Mr Tusk also said he sent a letter to the European People’s Party, a centre-right group in the European Parliament to which his Civic Platform party belongs, appealing for it to not back ACTA in its current form.

His announcement came after Slovenia’s government also said that it is halting the ratification of ACTA.

“This agreement is obviously not a matter of understanding, but of major misunderstanding,” education minister Radovan Zerjav said.

So far around 20 countries have signed the treaty, a key step before ratification. Four EU countries have now backed away from it – Poland, Slovenia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, which signed it but says it needs more time to analyse the deal.