Thousands protest ACTA, petition gets 300k signatures in 72 hours

3 Feb 2012

Thousands of people will take to the streets in opposition to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on 11 February, a policy analyst for Access predicts. She warns ACTA lacks democratic credibility and endangers free speech and privacy online.

ACTA is a new treaty that saw 22 countries in Europe sign up last week with full ratification in the European Parliament expected in the next month or two.

A petition against the treaty has gained more than 300,000 signatures within 72 hours.

A new organisation called Access, which has the tagline ‘Mobilising for Global Digital Freedom’, says protests are being organised all over the world to urge the European Parliament to reject ACTA on 11 February. So far, protests are taking place in Austria, Belgium, Britain, the UK, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Sweden and Switzerland.

The agreement is designed to fight the trade of counterfeit goods, including pharmaceuticals, but also encourages ISPs to take co-operative measures to fight copyright, which could result in repressive measures, such as a three-strikes rule.

ACTA lacks democratic credibility

Access policy analyst Raegan MacDonald says ACTA lacks democratic credibility.

“ACTA, which was secretly negotiated by a handful of countries, lacks democratic credibility and would endanger free speech and privacy online. 

“By encouraging ISPs to police their customers, the agreement would threaten the fundamental rights of citizens. The world is organising to stand up against ACTA by wielding the power of the online community – offline.

“We are supportive of all those who have been organising these protests and will peacefully demonstrate on this day of action. There are new events springing up every day across the world. We are expecting tens of thousands of people to take to the streets in opposition to this treaty. We are astounded by the response and passionate opposition,” MacDonald said.

ACTA is being considered as being more dangerous than the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was railroaded in the US after widespread online protest.

The clandestine nature of how ACTA came about, with little or no public consultation, is considered an affront to civil liberties and last week the EU’s principal rapporteur (investigator) MEP Kader Arif resigned in protest and slammed the whole process as a ‘charade.’

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years