WARSAW, POLAND (BNO NEWS) — Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Poland on Thursday to protest the signing of a European anti-piracy agreement, local media reported on Friday. Dozens of people were arrested.
Polish ambassador to Japan Jadwiga Rodowicz-Czechowska on Thursday signed the agreement, known as the ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) in Tokyo, at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She was joined by her European Union (EU) counterparts in approving the agreement.
According to the Polskie Radio Dla Zagranicy, some 10,000 people marched at Market Square in the Polish city of Krakow in protest to the signing. Other protests were carried out throughout the country, including in the western city of Wroclaw where some 5,000 people gathered to protest. At least 24 people were arrested in Kielce in central Poland due to vandalism.
Also on Thursday, several Polish government websites, including those of Prime Minster Donald Tusk, the Polish parliament and Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, were hacked. Their websites crashed and were inaccessible at different times, reports said.
Other EU countries, including Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Greece, also signed the agreement on Thursday but no significant protests were reported in those countries. Cyprus, Estonia, Slovakia, Germany and the Netherlands were the only EU member states which did not sign the agreement, although they promised to do so in the near future.
Last year, the agreement was signed by the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea. The agreement is similar to the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the United States, which has triggered protests around the world. Along with its U.S. Senate sister PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), the bills aim to crack down on U.S. and international websites which host or provide access to copyrighted material without the permission of their owners.
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Last week, one of the world’s largest file-sharing websites, Megaupload.com, was shut down by a U.S. District Court in Virginia, charging seven men and two corporations, Megaupload Limited and Vestor Limited, with running an international organized criminal enterprise which was allegedly responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of numerous types of copyrighted works, resulting in more than $500 million in losses to copyright owners.
In addition to the arrests, law enforcement also executed more than 20 search warrants in the United States and eight other countries, including New Zealand, and seized approximately $50 million in assets. The U.S. District Court in Virginia also ordered the seizure of 18 domain names associated with Megaupload.