EU signs 'international SOPA' as online protests continue

The European Union signed the international copyright treaty know as ACTA Jan. 26 in the face of international protests and the hacking of government websites by groups that oppose the deal, ZDNet UK and others reported.

The treaty had had drawn a series of attacks in Europe earlier in the week led by the hacker group Anonymous, whose members were irate over  U.S. anti-piracy legislation and the take-down of the Megaupload file sharing site. The group unleashed distributed denial-of-service hacks and intrusions against Polish government sites, Wired magazine reported.

ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a proposed international treaty that would establish standards for the enforcement of intellectual property rights. The treaty calls for the creation of an "ACTA committee" to make treaty amendments, for which public or judicial review are not required, according to Wikipedia. The panel would also operate outside of the scope of the World Trade Organizations or the United Nations.

Howevever, industry groups would have "consultatory input" to amendments. A 2009 Freedom of Information request showed that Google, eBay, Intel, Dell, News Corp., Sony Pictures, Time Warner, and Verizon had received copies of the draft treaty under a nondisclosure agreement.

Critics of ACTA also argue that the bill would require Internet service providers to give up data about users who were being accused of copyright infringement.

The European hacking attacks occurred in the wake of protests in the U.S. against SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, its companion bill in the Senate (PIPA) and the arrest by U.S. officials of employees of the file sharing site Megaupload.

SOPA and PIPA are intended to combat piracy of intellectual property, but contain provisions requiring Internet service providers to block offending sites and search engines by rerouting traffic away from them, provisions that many Internet companies and users found objectionable. The bills lost support following an large-scale online protest Jan. 18.

According to Wired, the electronic protests against ACTA also have spilled over into France, where DDOS attacks were undertaken against the French media conglomerate Vivendi.

Wired also reported that Ireland was set to pass itsown version of SOPA, complete with website blocking provisions, without a parliamentary vote.

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