Hundreds of people demonstrated in Warsaw on Friday against a copyright treaty that Poland signed this week, continuing days of protests over an issue that has sparked social anger and shaken the government.
Just last week most Poles had never heard of the treaty in question, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA. Since Sunday it has become the most-discussed problem in the country. It has sparked street protests in many cities nationwide and prompted attacks on government websites that left several paralyzed earlier in the week.
On Friday evening about 1,000 mostly young people gathered in front of the presidential palace in Warsaw, shouting "Democracy!" and "No to ACTA!"
Two government ministers said they would be willing to submit their resignation to calm public anger, but Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he did not want them to resign.
The agreement aims to establish intellectual standards on protecting international property. The negotiation countries — the U.S., Japan and many other industrialized states — say it is needed to fight the growing global trade in counterfeited goods and pirated material.
Though many other countries have signed it already, Poland is the only country that has seen major opposition to it.
Opponents say they fear it will restrict freedom of speech on the Internet and lead to greater surveillance online. But it's also clear that some critics fear it could bring an end to a popular practice of illegally downloading music, films and other material for free.
"Hate the state. Wanna Riot," read one poster in English at the rally in Warsaw on Friday evening — making it clear that the outcry over ACTA is becoming a Polish variant of something like the Occupy Movement that has broken out elsewhere.
Protesters express anger at the state, at corporations and at globalization — factors they blame for a bleak job market, rising prices and other problems.
Many people at the Polish protests have also donned the smiling but sinister masks depicting Guy Fawkes, a 17th century English revolutionary. The mask has become an icon of the Occupy Movement around the world and of the Internet network "Anonymous," which has claimed credit for attacking the Polish government websites this week.
Poland signed ACTA in Tokyo on Thursday, but it must still go to parliament for ratification.
Amid all the all uproar, Tusk vowed Friday that Warsaw would not fully ratify if there are reasons to believe it could threaten Internet freedoms.
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