Search
Close this search box.

Disparities hinder passage of common East African AIDS drugs-access laws

By Zakumumpa Henry

Disparities between the views of East African community (EAC) member countries are complicating efforts to pass a common intellectual property law that would enable access to antiretrovirals to be scaled- up in the area, a regional meeting of East African Health rights NGOs was told last week (12 April 2012).

The three-day meeting held at the Imperial Botanical Beach hotel attracted participants from Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, the countries that make up the EAC.

Moses Mulumba, an intellectual property expert who conducted the study, said there were many disparities between the member states, which is making the passage of a common ‘TRIPS [trade related intellectual property rights] flexibilities’ compliant law difficult.

Currently, Kenya is regarded as a ‘developing’ country while the rest of the East African member states are regarded as ‘least developed countries’ or LDCs.

Mr Mulumba emphasized that this differention is complicating the making of uniform strategies and laws as developing countries are no longer permitted to manufacture generic antiretrovirals drugs whereas LDCs have a grace period running up to 2016 to do just that and also have the opportunity to reform their laws to permit them to continue manufacturing generic antiretrovirals.

In November 1999, the East African Community Treaty was signed by its member states. This means decisions taken at the EAC level, since they are legally-binding on all member states, supersede those taken at individual member country level. Currently, the proposed East African anti-counterfeit bill (2010) looks set to threaten access to essential medicines due to its intellectual property enforcement stance.

Mr Mulumba also revealed there were differences between government sector ministries in East Africa regarding enforcing intellectual property rights, with East African health ministries taking on a public health focus of enabling access to essential medicines while the trade ministries had a bias of enforcing the protection of business interests and private innovation rights.

Further illustrating the disparities, it was revealed that Kenya already has an act on anti counterfeiting while Uganda has a bill before parliament and Tanzania has regulations made under the trade marks law.

At the meeting, it was also revealed that the different East African countries preferred to move at different paces in reforming intellectual property-associated laws, with Tanzania preferring a slower and more cautious approach.

It was noted at the meeting that in regard to laws relating to intellectual property rights, there is widespread, erroneous mixing of the issue of quality and standards on the one hand and enforcing private rights of innovators and inventors on the other.

Jane Nalunga, Country Director of SEATINI-Uganda, an NGO that seeks to strengthen Africa’s world trade position, called on East African countries to negotiate for fairer international trade laws as an East African block as this gave them better leverage than as individual countries.

Ambassador Nathan Irumba of SEATINI said: ‘’Develop intellectual property laws that are based on your current level of development; ones that won’t strangle indigenous efforts. Japan and China did not hurry to enforce intellectual property rights of foreigners until they had reached a certain level of development themselves. How many East Africans have filed applications for patents?’’

The meeting was hosted by SEATINI-Uganda in partnership with Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and HAI –Africa with funding from the Open Society Foundation.

Source: http://www.keycorrespondents.org/2012/04/16/disparities-hinder-passage-of-common-east-african-aids-drugs-access-laws/

Uganda: Pregnancy and Childbirth Mean Playing Russian Roulette With Women’s Lives

by Jessica Mack

Sylvia Nalubowa’s surviving twin is two-and-a-half; Jennifer Anguko’s baby turned one this past winter. Both of their mothers died giving birth to them – they are orphans of maternal mortality, an epidemic that continues to plague Uganda as it does the rest of the developing world. But these babies are also children of history.

Their mothers have become the face of a landmark case in Uganda that seeks, for the first time, to assign blame to the government for the deaths of women in childbirth. Last March, Ugandan human rights groups joined families of the deceased to file Constitutional Petition 16, alleging that the Ugandan Government failed to protect the women’s constitutional rights to life and health by allowing them to die in ill-equipped and poorly managed public hospitals, or failing to provide them with basic maternal care.

“We are seeking a declaration that maternal deaths happening due to avoidable causes is a violation of the right to health,” said Primah Kwagala, a lawyer for the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), a lead petitioner of the case. “The government should own up and increase funding towards maternal Health, and fulfill the Abuja Declaration to give at least 15% of the annual budget to the Health Sector.”

One of the key complaints in the petition is the Government spends just one-quarter on maternal health of what it pledged to spend, per capita.

Each woman died of negligence, essentially, as do 1 in 35 Ugandan women during pregnancy or childbirth. From ill-equipped health workers untrained for obstetric emergencies to inaccessible clinics, birth control stock-outs, and unsafe abortions gone very wrong, women in Uganda are forced to play Russian Roulette with a failing health system.

The petition was filed in March and heard in October, garnering impressive and global attention from advocates and media around the world. It seemed a rare breakthrough in an endless news cycle that treats maternal deaths as sad, but inevitable.

“Maternal health has been overlooked, as people seem to look at it as the daily status quo. People do not know that they have a right to good health service provision; they think it is a privilege,” said Kwagala.

An objection was raised during the petitions hearing which derailed promising momentum, and which must first be ruled upon before the actual petition hearing can move forward. Since then, five months have elapsed and the global media has long since packed up.

This petition was unique from other cases like it worldwide, which have sought retribution for the violation of women’s rights. Other cases before it have centered on unusually cruel and exceptional circumstances – for instance a 17-year old Peruvian woman denied the abortion of her anencephalic fetus, being forced to deliver and breastfeed until it died. Rather, this petition focuses on the mundanity of the status quo, seeking to “make it famous” as an acute abuse of human rights. Given the scale of maternal mortality in the country, the outcome of this petition could potentially put the government on the hook for crimes against humanity.

“Governments have an obligation to take action to prevent maternal deaths, which represent a gross violation of women’s basic human rights,” said Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver. “Where human rights have been violated, individuals and organizations must turn to the courts at the national, regional, and UN levels. Health systems that deliver for girls and women, deliver for everyone.”

Women Deliver and the Ugandan group Partners in Population and Development co-hosted a regional consultation on maternal health in the capital city late last month, drawing African maternal health experts from across the continent. The petition didn’t come up explicitly, but experts spouted the same important, but now redundant, points they have for years: women deserve more, and when they get more, we all win.

Maternal health seems to be a chronic back-seat issue, barring a few hopeful moments in history. One of those was 2010, when the Women Deliver conference drew 3,000 maternal health advocates to hear Melinda Gates announce $1.5 billion in new funds for the issue. Soon after, global maternal health data estimates confirmed that progress was underway; the G8 made maternal health its pet issue, and the UN Secretary-General launched a major initiative, the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.

That was two years ago. It is too soon to comment on progress, but in many ways outward excitement for this issue has drained. In recent months, it isn’t maternal deaths, but rather the wanted ghost of war criminal Joseph Kony which has catapulted Uganda into the news once again. Love it or hate it, the KONY2012 campaign generated a magnetic force field of global attention toward Uganda. Deft Ugandan advocates parlayed that to leverage new commitments to Nodding Syndrome, a disease overlooked for years. The country’s rising HIV prevalence, has also garnered new focus. Surely this is an opportunity for maternal health advocates to claim their stake once and for all.

“The Government of Uganda talks a good game about its commitment to maternal and reproductive health, but it needs to do more than talk,” says Elisa Slattery, Africa Regional Director for the Center for Reproductive Rights. “It must put money and resources behind efforts that save the lives and health of women.”

What exactly should those efforts look like? That should be up to Ugandan health professional and advocates. Kwagala easily rattles off a list: “recruit more midwives, increase the pay of health workers to motivate them. Amend the constitution to include the right to health. Provide redress measures to patients whose rights have been violated & respect citizen’s rights.” There are other crucial issues to address, like ensuring access to birth control and considering expansions to the country’s abortion law. A recent government estimate suggests it is the cause of 26 percent of maternal deaths in the country.

An even more pragmatic first step might be addressing electricity cuts. “How honestly do you expect a health worker to perform C – Sections on a mother who is suffering obstructed labour if there is no electricity to sterilize instruments, or even light to see if it is in the night,” asks Kwagala. Last week, CEHURD filed a complaint against a major power company, alleging indiscriminate load shedding (rolling blackouts to save money) at hospitals undermined patients right to health.

It’s not for lack of ideas to save them, whether creative or practical, that Ugandan women are dying, but for lack of action. And when it comes to maternal mortality, Uganda is in a unique position: it has neither the best nor the worst death rates in the continent. It was commended by the UN in 2010 for “making progress,” having reduced deaths by 36 percent from 1990 to 2008. Maternal mortality remains a problem of considerable magnitude, but there are potentially enough resources to actually address it.

Last week, CEHURD and their co-petitioners got a break. After constant follow-up and months of waiting, they received a letter from Deputy Chief Justice Alice Mpagi Bahigeine:

“The delay in delivering the ruling is very much regretted. However, it has been brought to the attention of the Hon. Justice responsible and everything possible to ensure speedy disposal of the matter.”

This acknowledgement signals that the government knows the world is watching, and perhaps really is committed to prioritizing this issue. The outcome is still in question, so it is too early to say that the paradigm has shifted but instead we should recognize that it is, indeed, shifting, and we can still do our part to catalyze that.

Source; http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/04/02/uganda-womens-rights-maternal-health-fall-to-back-line-once-again

US, WIPO Training Programme On IP Rights In Africa Comes Under Fire

By , Intellectual Property Watch

For years, some developing countries have insisted that developed countries – which own the vast majority of intellectual property rights – take a singular focus when it comes to offering technical assistance on IP rights: the protection of “northern” property. In recent years, negotiations in venues like the World Intellectual Property Organization have sought to ensure that such assistance also highlights the creation of local IP rights as well as the availability of flexibilities developing countries have under international rules for IP.

Now a three-day conference on IP enforcement being planned for April in Cape Town, South Africa by mostly northern interests has stirred old tensions and seemingly confirmed past fears of developing countries.

“It’s as if the last five years didn’t happen – no WIPO Development Agenda, no discussion on copyright limitations and exceptions, no proposals in favour of libraries and archives, education, blind and visually impaired people,” said Teresa Hackett, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL). “But they did happen, and we will work to ensure that delegates attending the African IP Forum hear a diversity of opinion and perspective, and have the opportunity to debate these issues that are critically important to libraries in Africa and around the world.”

The 3-5 April conference entitled, Africa Intellectual Property Forum: Intellectual Property, Regional Integration and Economic Growth in Africa, is being organised by the US Department of Commerce Office of General Counsel Commercial Law Development Program. It is touted as the first Africa-wide ministerial-level event of its kind. The office could not be reached for comment on this story.

The official website is here. An apparently later draft programme of the summit posted by Knowledge Ecology International is here.

The conference might have been better received if billed as an outright enforcement and anti-counterfeiting event. There are some panels and speakers whose focus is local innovation, local brand development, and locally appropriate practices. But the majority of the panels have a focus on enforcement and protection, and are studded with speakers from developed country governments and industry whose focus is the same.

This came as a slap in the face for non-governmental organisations who work on helping the global South grow their domestic economies by localising tools such as intellectual property rights. Many have viewed with hope and a little doubt the 2007 World Intellectual Property Organization Development Agenda, which consisted of 45 agreed recommendations intended to more fully incorporate the development dimension into WIPO activities – particularly technical assistance. The South Africa agenda may appear to many as a throw-back to the days before the Development Agenda existed, and may contain the underlying motive of encouraging strong IP legislation in those countries.

Developing countries readily admit the urgent need for help in fighting a preponderance of counterfeit products flooding across their borders. And developed countries have a legitimate interest in trying to address the problem, which usually involves knock-offs of their goods.

But the debates of the past few years at WIPO, the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization have demonstrated the strong desire of developing countries to tailor actions to their local situations, and not have them be top-down. Among the tools available to developing countries is to not apply IP rights in certain cases, for instance. Among other effects, this can allow the production of cheaper versions of products, and cheaper legitimate versions can squeeze the market for counterfeits.

Swell of Opposition

A 7 February letter [pdf] to WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, signed by a least 100 NGOs from around the world, calls for the summit to be scrapped altogether over conflicts of interest and the lack of a development and public interest dimension.

A particular concern of NGOs is that the conference will advance anti-counterfeiting legislation across Africa that will lead to damaging restrictions to the local populations and economies. They also raised alarm that the conference does not appear to include discussion on how to use the hard-won flexibilities that developing countries are allowed to employ so as not to apply IP rights if not in their national interest.

“It is worrying to see that a major event such as an Africa-wide forum is being co-organised in partnership with US, France and Japan,” the letter said. “These governments are known for advocating their TRIPS plus agendas in developing countries in the interests of their own industries and priorities.”

“WIPO being an intergovernmental and a specialized agency of the UN must take immediate measures to ensure that all its activities are evidence based, free of conflicts of interest and undue influence of actors that are known to promote an unbalanced IP agenda.”

A key point is that concern over substandard, poor quality medicines is separate from counterfeit medicines and is not in the responsibility of WIPO, but rather the WHO. There have been accusations from some countries in recent years that the counterfeit drug problem is being used to interfere with the market for legitimate generic medicines.

The NGOs also demanded more transparency and inclusiveness in the process of developing a conference. The event is being organised by the US government, but WIPO is named as a co-coordinator and there are proposals in the agenda for many WIPO officials to be on the panels. It appears that even the officials from Africa are being selected by the northern organisers, and the criteria for acceptance to participate in the conference are not posted on the website.

Event sponsor the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)-Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) by contrast holds separate industry-focussed events at other times and while they are critiqued, there is little question about their purpose or message. There have been questions about WIPO’s involvement in those meetings, however.

This week, several NGOs, such as KEI, Oxfam and Public Citizen, wrote to Cameron Forbes Kerry, the General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Commerce, requesting a review of the South Africa conference “to see if the sponsorship of the event violates Executive Order 13155, on Access to HIV/AIDS Pharmaceuticals and Medical Technologies,” which they said “was issued by President Clinton on May 10, 2000 after an extensive review of U.S. trade policy as it related to access to patented medicines in sub-Saharan Africa.”

That executive order says that “the United States shall not seek, through negotiation or otherwise, the revocation or revision of any intellectual property law or policy” that undermines “access to HIV/AIDS pharmaceuticals or medical technologies,” as long as the countries are within the norms of the TRIPS agreement, according to the groups.

Executive Order 13155 “was designed to protect African consumers from trade pressures on intellectual property and medicine,” KEI President James Love said in a statement. “The 2012 high level meeting shows no recognition of the policy set out in EO 13155, and would extend anti-consumer trade pressures to other sensitive areas for development, such as agriculture, climate change and access to knowledge and culture. Secretary John Bryson and other Obama Administration officials need to take a step back and change the format of the meeting, or cancel the event.”

NGO Reactions

A host of NGO comments were circulated this week.

“The proposed agenda for the Africa WIPO Summit clearly shows that the summit is being used as a vehicle to drive the agenda of the US, the EU and the pharmaceutical industry to ramp up protection and enforcement of intellectual property,” said Catherine Tomlinson of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa. “We urge ours and other African governments to reject the proposed agenda.”

Moses Mulumba of the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development in Uganda said: “It’s a shame that the Africa IP Forum is putting emphasis on IP enforcement agenda. One would expect the continent to be discussing the Development Agenda in light of its social economic challenges in the areas of health, education and agriculture. Over emphasis on IP enforcement is iniquitous of the continent’s population that still badly needs to utilise the policy space provided for by the TRIPS Agreement.”

Andrew Rens, a South African IP specialist and a researcher at Duke University (US), said: “In the years since TRIPS the single most important issue involving intellectual property for Africans has been gaining access to medicines. There is no track nor even a single session on access to medicines.” There also is no session on copyright exceptions for education, despite the South African government being a proponent of these in international negotiations, he said.

Jeremy Malcolm of Consumers International said: “Such a forum will be seen by all not as a bona fide attempt at open discussion on the pros and cons of robust intellectual property protection in the African context, but rather as a cynical effort by foreign governments and multinational corporations to control the framing of these issues for African policy-makers.”

KEI’s James Love said: “The world community should be supportive to the development concerns of persons living in Africa whose population is largely comprised of poor persons and avoid unfair exploitation. By organizing a high level meeting on intellectual property that is dominated by big corporate right holder interests, the US government is taking a step backwards, to exploit consumers rather than to promote development.”

Sangeeta Shashikant, legal advisor at the Third World Network, said: “The US is well known for pressuring developing countries to adopt TRIPS plus standards. The Africa IP Summit is another attempt by the US to advance its aggressive agenda on IP protection and enforcement such as Anti-Counterfeit Agreement (ACTA), that favours the interests of certain powerful multinational companies. The US concept paper and programme totally disregards the numerous developmental and socio-economic challenges facing Africa. Issues of access to affordable medicines, access to knowledge, misappropriation of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, farmers’ rights are totally disregarded. Equally absent is a discussion on the value of public interest flexibilities in the IP system to achieve developmental objectives and address social needs. The US agenda is clear. It is about not about development. It is about protecting the interests of its companies, many of which are sponsoring the meeting, proliferating IP propaganda and misinformation. Unless steps are taken to fully reflect development and public interest considerations, and to eliminate actors only interested in an anti-development agenda, the event should not go ahead.”

Prof. Brook Baker of Northeastern University law school and Health GAP, said: It is deeply problematic that the Obama administration continues to pursue efforts to strengthen, widen, and lengthen patent, data, and copyright monopolies in African countries that desperately need expanded access to medicines, educational materials, and climate control technologies and that it simultaneously seeks even stronger enforcement of IP protections than what is currently required under international law. Carrying the policy portfolio of Big Pharma and other IP-based multinationals under the guise of addressing Africa’s needs, the proposed African IP Summit is a chilling example of US duplicity and conflict of interest at its worst. However, it is equally problematic if Africa leaders and policy makers, some of whom are already complicit with the US agenda, continue to drink the IP KoolAid as they’ve done with proposed anti-counterfeiting legislation and with their long-lasting lethargy in amending their IP laws to take full advantage of TRIPS flexibilities and thereafter to use those flexibilities to access medicines and other essential technologies.”

The Open Society Foundation blogged about the event, cautioning developing countries about “US propaganda”, here. Global Health Watch also posted about the event, here.

Is ACTA treaty worse than SOPA and PIPA ?

As ACTA treaty, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, gains more and more government support, the internet world is revolting against it. This agreement is set to establish a new ruling body that would be responsible for targeting online piracy and was drafted/signed by a variety of countries.

As of October 1, 2011 there have been 31 various countries that have signed the agreement including the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia, and many others. Those supporting the agreement state that it is necessitated due to the massive increase in the trade and production of counterfeit goods and copyrighted content.

With SOPA and PIPA now out of the way (hopefully) the attention of the Internet protesting masses have turned towards this Act but why? Here we will examine the reasons behind the negativity against ACTA and also see if the protesting is justified or if it is merely due to thousands of uninformed individuals “jumping the protest band wagon”.

Why are people protesting the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement?

1) Secrecy
A big issue with ACTA treaty is the fact that those involved in its negotiations are being incredibly secretive about it. Many people rightfully believe that if an agreement is being worked on that will affect EVERYONE then they have a right to know what is being proposed and discussed. The shroud of secrecy cloaking ACTA treaty was almost impenetrable until secret documents were leaked on WikiLeaks.

Michael Geist, who writes for Copyright News, stated that: “reports suggest that trade negotiators have been required to sign non-disclosure agreements for fear of word of the treaty’s provisions leaking to the public.”

2) Infringing on human rights
The freedom of expression is one that everyone holds dear. It is something that defines freedom and when that right is infringed upon, people rightfully get angry. Unfortunately it is incredibly profitable for both governments and businesses to make it so that this right is restricted which is what they are doing in the ACTA agreement.

There was a letter signed by a variety of prominent European organizations (27+ actually) that stated how ACTA infringed on the fundamental rights of European citizens because of its restrictions on freedom of expression and communication. Additionally the Act, as the letter stated, would allow undue and harsh legal standards to be placed and these standards don’t “reflect contemporary principles”

3) Generic medicine
One of the big issues that ACTA is covering is the issue of intellectual property. They are fighting against all violations of intellectual property which acutally poses a huge threat to a number of common household items mainly generic medicine. Since ACTA would give god-like powers to the ruling members it would allow them to stop generic drugs since they are “counterfeit”. This would make it so that drugs would not be shipped to developing countries and that the medications can even be destroyed. Unfortunately developing companies simply do not have the funds to pay for such expensive medication which is why they turned to cheaper versions of the drugs to help the sick and needy.

4) Similarities to SOPA/PIPA
Lastly, the similarity of this act to both SOPA and PIPA is surprisingly close when you take a deeper look at it. The fact that the piracy and sale of counterfeit materials is at the heart of the matter is obvious. Unfortunately the big issues are that the punishments for violations of these laws are severe and unjust in almost every sense.

Are The Protests Justified?

When you closely look at all of the possibilities that ruling body created by ACTA treaty can do then you can see that they are given too much freedoms, too many exceptions, and are able to operate in secrecy. The right to expression and freedom of speech should never be undermined and when a ruling body is enacted to do just that then it should be fought.

The fact that ACTA would ban generic drugs -drugs made cheaper so that everyone could afford them and drugs responsible for saving lives – is outrageous to say the least. Additionally “there is a provision on ACTA specifically exempting travellers from checks if the infringing goods are of a non-commercial nature and not part of large-scale trafficking”.

If the government officials constructing this treaty had nothing to fear and nothing to hide then there would be no reason for such secrecy as to have others sign a nondisclosure agreement. Hopefully the overwhelming amount of pressure both offline and online will overturn the decision for this act before it’s too late!

Source: http://www.itsagadget.com/2012/02/acta-treaty-sopa-and-pipa.html

ACTA: Absolutely Everything You Need To Know About Europe’s Grand Anti-Piracy Plan

Sanya Khetani

What is ACTA?
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a broad agreement that aims to create uniform international standards on protecting the rights of those who produce music, movies, medicines, fashion, and other products that are victim to intellectual property theft (which costs $250 billion annually) and patent issues, the Guardian reports.

The idea for the treaty was born in October 2007, as a collaborative effort between the United States, the EU, Switzerland, and Japan. The reason there were no protests until almost five years later is because the public remained mostly unaware of EU negotiations, until they were put in the spotlight by Anonymous, according to RT.

Who has signed it?
While Japan, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea signed it in 2010, the European Commission and non elected representatives from 22 of the EU’s member states signed ACTA in 2011, according to StopACTA.info.

However, the bill still needs to be ratified by the EU parliament before it can come into effect. The vote is scheduled for June, but MEPs are already under immense pressure from pro- and anti-ACTA activists.

Who is against it?
So far, Switzerland, Germany, Cyprus, Estonia, the Netherlands, and Slovakia have not signed the bill. Several non-European countries have also expressed reservations over ACTA.

And while both France and Slovenia have signed, one French Member of European Parliament (MEP) resigned from the scrutinizing process, calling it a “masquerade”, while the Slovenian representative wrote a statement apologizing to Slovenian citizens for agreeing to the proposals of ACTA.

How it’s different from SOPA and PIPA
There’s a few ways ACTA is more dangerous and all-encompassing, according to most internet activists.
ACTA is an international treaty. SOPA was a bill before the U.S. Congress, although it also aimed at stopping web piracy of U.S. content on overseas sites.

So ACTA would set up its own legal framework and independent governing body, rather than amending existing national laws in signatory countries. This would give it a wider reach than SOPA, which would require changes to U.S. copyright law and would be administered by U.S. authorities, says the UK’s Intellectual Property Office.

While SOPA and PIPA required approval from the U.S. Congress (and by extension, the American public) to become laws — the major reason they were shelved — ACTA’s negotiations and signings seemed to have gone on behind closed doors, and they do not require the approval of national parliaments (which cannot undo it once ratified), or citizens, because it does not involve changes to existing laws or constitutions.

The EU says ACTA will also not shut down any sites or cut off internet access for anyone, unlike SOPA, which threatened to target those posting pirated content on sites and host sites themselves.

The reason people are protesting it
Internet service providers could be forced to monitor all user activity for possible copyright violations, and trademark owners and law enforcement could get away with greater invasion of privacy and violation of civil liberties during investigations, RT reports.

Opponents also fear authorities will block content on the web, adding ACTA to a long line of attempts at internet censorship.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, ACTA would block the free flow of information on the internet, hampering innovation and legitimate commerce.

It also does not allow developing countries to create their own policies. Not all of them might have the resources to create and maintain ACTA safeguards for web piracy, medicines, and other necessary goods. India says it would greatly affect trade of generic medicines, vital to a country where a large section of the population cannot afford brand-name medicines.

People are also suspicious of the way ACTA seems to be a unilateral international agreement, and was prepared behind closed doors (a charge the EU denies, among other ‘ACTA myths’) and signed without consulting international bodies, developing countries, national parliaments, and ordinary citizens.

“This agreement might have major consequences on citizens’ lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter,” Kader Arif, the French rapporteur for ACTA who resigned, said, according to StopACTA.info.

What now?
Protests have now spread across Europe, with Anonymous playing a key role in online protests — and they might yet be able to stop the ACTA juggernaut: Poland has decided to put off its final approval of the bill, AFP reports.

While the European Commissioners have negotiated the treaty, the Eurpoean Parliament has the final say on whether the treaty will be ratified or not, which means we will only know in June if the cracks that have begun to show in Poland will spread to the rest of Europe.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/acta-europe-piracy-2012-2#ixzz1lWx3SPbf