Europeans rage against ACTA

Thousands of European citizens are taking to the streets today to protest against the EU’s Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, otherwise known as ACTA, which severely threatens European online privacy and civil liberties in the name of protecting copyright.

Protesters in over 200 European cities have braved the current cold snap to pressure their governments into abandoning its agreement to pass ACTA into law, which was signed by 22 of the EU’s 27 countries on January 26th. Final signing of the law will take place in June.

Winning the battle

Protests over the last four weeks have already had a huge effect on hindering ACTA’s march into the EU law books. In January Poland saw some of the biggest demonstrations in its post-communist history, which included members of its own parliament, which has now forced the Polish government to refuse to sign the bill and officially withdraw its support. Following protests in Berlin and Prague, Poland was swiftly joined by Germany and The Czech Republic, who are also now withdrawing their support for ACTA.

Even more surprising was the refreshing display of humility displayed by Slovenia’s ambassador to Japan, Helena Drnovsek Zorko, who apologised for not grasping the grave threat that ACTA poses to the internet. Zorko was one of the committee members who signed ACTA on behalf of Slovenia last month. She is now calling on people to take to the streets and on governments to abandon the bill.

“I signed ACTA out of civic carelessness, because I did not pay enough attention,” wrote Zorko. “Quite simply, I did not clearly connect the agreement I had been instructed to sign with the agreement that, according to my own civic conviction, limits and withholds the freedom of engagement on the largest and most significant network in human history, and thus limits particularly the future of our children.”

Internet Spy Provider

But hang on, didn’t Americans manage to kill the Stop Online Privacy Act last month? Isn’t the internet saved? What’s ACTA and what exactly are Europeans getting angry about?

Well ACTA is potentially even worse than SOPA. Chief among concerns is the bill’s insistence that Internet Service Providers effectively police the actions of their customers. ACTA makes sure that ISPs are put under pressure to monitor exactly what internet users are browsing and downloading and then report them to law officials should they believe copyrighted content has been accessed illegally. If ACTA passes then Europeans can wave goodbye to their online privacy. ISPs would be forced to spy on users and the only way to get around this would be to use an anonymisation service such IVPN.

Cloak and dagger

Given its sinister ramifications, it’s therefore no surprise that ACTA was drafted almost entirely in secret between EU officials and entertainment industry copyright lawyers. In fact, Kader Arif, the very person the European Parliament put in charge to oversee ACTA, quit his position in disgust, saying that he wants to “denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement.”

Make no mistake, ACTA is a nasty piece of work  and if you want to protect online privacy and fight for a free internet then you should support those Europeans protesting on the streets today. For more information on ACTA and for ways to pressure your local Member of the European Parliament, visit Kill ACTA.

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Tags: Privacy

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