ACTA and Why Even YOU Should Be Concerned

24/01/2012 18:55



You like the Internet, don’t you? You like how fast you can access information, you like how you can communicate and exchange ideas with people around the world, you like how much entertainment it brings... Now, what if all of that was taken away from you under the threat of harsh financial sanctions or even imprisonment?

The issue of digital copyright and its infringement on the Internet has been subject to constant discussion for almost as long as the Internet exists. Some of you may have heard about the proposed SOPA and PIPA bills and the outrage they have caused. These bills were heavily flawed and even though they were meant for the American region, their impact would have been international. It was only thanks to the immediate mobilization, public awareness campaign and blackout strike on January 18th that the vote on the bills was postponed indefinitely. Yet not even a week has passed since then and we have to face a far bigger threat not only to the Internet, but also to our freedom of speech and even our privacy.

Do not be mistaken – even though this will sound like your worst Orwellian nightmare, it does concern you because we might end up living it. And this is not a conspiracy theory. This is actually happening.
(And if you don’t feel like reading the rest of this article, at least do yourself a favor and scroll down to the videos.)

So what is ‘ACTA’?
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement or ACTA is an agreement originally intended to protect intellectual property and harmonize international copyright laws as well as patent infringement. Its scope includes counterfeit goods, generic medicines and, of course, copyright infringement on the Internet. However, the way ACTA is planning to ‘safeguard’ these is highly unnerving.

First and foremost, ACTA is being negotiated by merely 39 like-minded countries (including the United States, Japan, Switzerland, the European Union and several others) and multi-national entertainment corporations. Also, it is being negotiated instead of democratically discussed. It has bypassed parliaments and has ignored criticism from international organizations such as WTO. Developing countries and civil rights organizations have been completely excluded. However much we may be used to this “about us, without us” approach, we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to this issue as the consequences could be dire, to say the least.


Because ACTA will invade your privacy, Big Brother will be watching you.

This is where it gets ugly. “ACTA would create its own governing body outside existing international institutions. The treaty calls for the creation of an ’ACTA committee’ to make amendments, for which public or judicial review are not required. Industry representatives may have ‘consultatory input’ to amendments.” No democratically appointed representatives, mind you. In simpler terms – if ACTA is adopted, entertainment industry representatives (not all of them, only the big ones) will get their own enforcement body through which they will be able to police the content shared on the Internet.

Yes, they will. How? You see, ACTA will actually have the legal means to require Internet service providers (ISPs) to monitor that content for them. And not just that. All of the content on your computer may be monitored. As an Internet user, you will be under constant suspicion of piracy and therefore under constant surveillance. Just in case. And once they find anything on which copyright can be claimed, the sanctions will range from disconnecting/denying you the service through imposing financial sanctions on you to starting criminal persecution against you. And the amount of these damages will be decided upon by that very same self-appointed committee and I quote, “In determining the amount of damages for infringement of intellectual property rights, a Party’s judicial authorities shall have the authority to consider, inter alia, any legitimate measure of value the right holder submits, which may include lost profits, the value of the infringed goods or services measured by the market price, or the suggested retail price.“ So in the end, you will be required to pay any amount of money they will find adequate. Not to mention that the original creator or artist won’t in any way profit from these proceeds. They will go straight to the copyright holder, which are the same multi-national corporations. (More at:

What we do not realise is that living in the age of information, everyone is involved in the so-called copyright infringement. And I’m not talking about downloading music or movies here.
What if you upload a video from a party, and the music that plays in the background is not your own?
– that will be considered copyright infringement.
If you post that funny picture you wanted to show your friends so much?
– that will be considered copyright infringement.
If you film yourself singing a song by a mainstream artist?
– that will be considered copyright infringement.
If you send a quote from an interesting news article to somebody?
– that will be considered copyright infringement.
And if you even just as much as have any of these and many other files on your computer?
-- that will be considered copyright infringement and you shall be persecuted.


This is not how you deal with piracy

ACTA will not put a stop to piracy. It may prevent the corporate copyright holders from losing profit, but it will have a myriad of other harmful effects. For instance, it will make the most popular content and idea-sharing sites go bankrupt. I am not talking about file-sharing portals here. Websites like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, but even countless blogs, forums and other sites will be affected too because constant intimidation with the threats of legal action will cause their users to stop visiting and posting on these sites.

This will in turn have a devastating effect on the freedom of speech and freedom of expression.  The Internet, thanks to the said freedom of expression and free sharing of ideas and experience, has already brought a lot of innovation and progress into our lives. Having to worry all the time whether, let’s say, an idea, tune or even scene for your video project has been ‘claimed’ by somebody else, will probably discourage you from even attempting to share it, won’t it?


One to rule them all

Another consequence of ACTA will be the stifling of healthy economic competition; especially any competition to these gargantuan entertainment companies. There are flourishing online companies (companies that host music by independent artists or publish works by independent writers or even software by independent programmers) who, under ACTA, could be shut down under the mere pretense of being potential copyright abusers. It would render the market completely dependent on the consent of the large labels. No one would risk getting into the business because small starting companies usually do not have the funds to defend themselves in court against false-or-not allegations of copyright infringement. Furthermore, no investor in their right mind would even participate in such a risky venture. Convenient, right?

When it comes to battling online piracy, it is especially ironic that the very same smaller companies help the most by making their service available regardless of region, regardless of ‘cartel’. So, basically, instead of concentrating on improving and bringing a product/service to a wider audience, ACTA concentrates on ensuring no one else will.

The worst thing about censorship is **********

Or so they say. “Why then is this issue more important than any other?” you ask. Because without the freedom of information flow and freedom of sharing ideas, you will not even know something like this is happening. Without the freedom of speech and sharing information, you will not even know there is something like global warming, third world poverty and famine, or even the notorious ‘gorila’. Simply put – if somebody found certain information inconvenient, they could censor it under ACTA.

Far-fetched? Then tell me – how come that up to this moment you may not have heard of ACTA? How come that all major news portals speak only vaguely about it; that the only space you get to hear about it is online? It is no secret that major media are privately owned. What you don’t know won’t worry you. But even if it could have a direct impact on your life and take away your civil liberties?


So what do I do? I want to remain a free citizen. I don’t want my rights to be taken away.

And you should act. There are already online protests and petitions underway.
Definitely sign them. Do not remain passive. Only big numbers can make a difference.
In the upcoming days, ACTA will be passing through the EU Parliament. And the bottom line is – it shall not pass. Citizens have been excluded from major decisions far too long, but this is nothing like saving the economic growth. ACTA is actually supposed to ensure the economic growth of the select elite and take away your privacy. You don’t have to go out into the streets and get maced in the face.

But you should raise awareness.

We need to ensure that the opposition is heard.

We need to take a stand and that stand is a resolute NO to ACTA.

Zora Feldsamová


Petitions to sign can be found on the following websites:

Further reading and resources: - Electronic Frontier Foundation

ACTA in a nutshell:  - Say NO to ACTA  - Anti ACTA – What can you do?


Also if you would like a quick rundown on what the SOPA and PIPA bills are: - Understanding PIPA / SOPA & Why You Should Be Concerned




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