29 January 2012
by Pauline Malmqvist
On the initiative of Anonymous a hundred of people protested this Saturday in Paris against ACTA. They also asked to protest in 36 other french cities.
ACTA, known as Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is an international treaty that aims at reinforcing the copyright laws. It wants to reinforce the cooperation between all the countries that has signed ACTA. Like SOPA and PIPA, ACTA threatens the liberty of internet and the freedom of expression. This treaty has been secretly negotiated by the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland. Which is the first controversial issue about ACTA: the States hid it away from us during the process of the law which lead us to know nothing about this treaty.
The agreement expands the copyrights law by criminalizing file-sharing, which firstly was a civil infringement. It will give the right for the governments worldwide that has signed the treaty to allow right holders to seek personal data through ISPs (Internet Service Providers). It will also give copyright holders legal means to pursue people suspected of bypassing copyright protections. It also allows to seize goods at theirs borders if suspected of containing infringing content.
In order to reinforce the copyright laws ACTA has severe penalties. The judicial authorities have the authority to order the person engaged in infringing activity:
- To pay the right holder damages adequate to compensate for the injury the right holder has suffered as a result of the infringement. (Section 2: Civil Enforcement, Article 9: Damages, paragraph 1 – ACTA)
- For offences specified in paragraphs 1, 2, and 4 of Article 23 (Criminal Offences), each Party shall provide penalties that include imprisonment as well as monetary fines sufficiently high to provide a deterrent to future acts of infringement, consistently with the level of penalties applied for crimes of a corresponding gravity.(ACTA in section 4: Criminal Enforcement, Article 24: Penalties).
In the European Union 22 members has signed the treaty on Thursday 26th January in Tokyo, including France. However, it still must be signed by the European parliament. The hope that the treaty can still be stopped lead to protests from the internet hacker group Anonymous but also non-member of the group. As a matter of fact, a European Parliament official, Kader Arif, resigned and stated: “I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organizations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, exclusion of the EU Parliament’s demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly”.
This was a awakening alarm for some of us, unfortunately to few. Only a couple of hundreds of people gathered in Paris to protest on Saturday 28th. The French medias did not put the spotlight on ACTA, that might explain also why the crowd was not as big as expected.
Behind the Guy Fawkes masks people yelled “No to ACTA” and “We are legion”. They stated that they want to defend the liberty and rights of each individual.
Protests were particularly strong in Poland, where a thousands of citizens marched together against ACTA. There were also several government officials that showed their disapproval of ACTA by wearing the now very famous mask of Guy Fawkes.
To show their disapproval of ACTA, Anonymous has launched several attacks against Governmental and entertainment websites, including the FBI and also the french Governments. Until the European parliament has not signed ACTA there is still hope that ACTA will not be enacted. On avaaz.org there is a petition, that they plan on taking to the European parliament so the voice of the citizens may count for something. It did for SOPA and PIPA, why not for ACTA?