Thursday, July 5, 2012


  ACTA is a highly controversial anti-piracy trade agreement pushed by the music and movie industries, pretty much under the cover of darkness.  When scholars and public interest groups asked the US government to share the draft treaty and the government's negotiating positions, they were refused under the claim of national security.  The US assured them that their concerns were unfounded, and the things they feared were in the treaty weren't.  When parliaments in a number of European states were asked to vote on the treaty, they were told that they would not be allowed to see or read it in advance.  Still, leaders managed to ram ratification through 22 EU nations. Once again, assurances were given that public concerns were unfounded.
  Just before a meeting to ratify ACTA, a copy of the draft proposal was leaked, and it turned out that every single concern raised was in fact embodied in the treaty, in many cases in more egregious forms than initially thought.  This didn't stop the meeting last October, or stop President Obama from committing the US to this international treaty, without the normally necessary step of getting the Senate's ratification.  At the time he claimed that since the treaty doesn't directly change US law, it was an "executive agreement" rather than a treaty and didn't need ratification.  So how bad was ACTA? - think the anti-piracy SOPA and PIPA bills on steroids, applied internationally.
  While there was a growing anti-ACTA movement in Europe, the popular criticism of PIPA and SOPA and their eventual defeat in Congress encouraged European critics and activists, and prompted hundreds of protests throughout the EU (see earlier post for map).  The anti-ACTA movement helped start a new political party (the Pirate Party), and other political parties (notably the Greens) adopted stances in opposition.  Yesterday, the European Parliament rejected the ACTA treaty by a vote of 478-39.  As a result of the vote, no country in the EU can be part of ACTA.
"The European Parliament vote is a triumph of democracy over special interests and shady back-room deals," (UK Pirate Party leader Loz Kaye) told the BBC. "It is becoming increasingly politically poisonous to be 'anti-Internet.'"
  Many credit the widespread protests, many of which were organized and coordinated online, for catching the attention of European politicians.  Another early Pirate Party leader contributed this take -
But the key takeaway here is that it was us, the activists, that made this happen. Everyone in the European Parliament are taking turns to praise all the activists across Europe and the world for drawing their attention to what utter garbage this really was, not some run-of-the-mill rubberstamp paper, but actually a really dangerous piece of proposed legislation. Everybody thanks the activists for that. Yes, that’s you. You should lean back, smile, and pat yourself on the back here.
  Or as several members of Parliament tweeted -  “your protesting won it” and “you may stop sending anti-‪#ACTA emails now, thank you,”

 The EU Parliament vote makes it difficult for proponents to keep arguing that the treaty's provisions have widespread support, and is likely to impact upcoming votes in other countries.  But one of the more egregious provisions of ACTA, in my opinion, is the language that says ACTA will go into effect globally as soon as six countries (out of nearly 200 around the world) ratify it.  If the ACTA supporters try to enforce that provision, it should provoke both political and public resistance, and even more bad PR for Hollywood's heavy-handed approach to what is a serious issue.  Not a good strategy.
  Like SOPA and PIPA, ACTA needs to be reworked - but in a more public and transparent way that takes into consideration the interests of the public and the myriad transmission channels as well as the interests of copyright-holders.  Rather than lawyers for one industry writing legislation that pet legislators try to introduce and pass before anyone knows what's in the bill and how it will impact others, copyright industries should consider and address the concerns of their customers, and the impact of proposed legislation on the public weal.

Sources -  Europe declares independence from Hollywood with ACTA vote, arstechnica
European Parliament's Rejection of ACTA Demonstrates Again the Power of Digital Activism, Slate's Future Tense blog
Europe reacts to ACTA - The Other Problematic Anti-Online Piracy Policy, Media Business and the Future of Journalism blog

No comments:

Post a Comment