ACTA Versus ‘Cyber-Libertarianism’ (Round Two)
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a controversial plurilateral agreement, which seeks to establish stronger international standards on intellectual property rights. Although the agreement covers a vast variety of goods, products, and services; the agreements based around the internet and copyright infringement (Section 5) have once again proven to be the most contentious. Concern about ACTA and its potential impact on the internet has been growing steadily since the draft agreement was first leaked by Wikileaks in 2008. Concerns were fueled by the fact that the agreement was not only edited and amended in secret, but that powerful interests helped mold and determine the treaty.
Unfortunately the campaigns to raise awareness and debate key ACTA proposals haven’t been as successful as the ones that stopped the SOPA and PIPA bills in the U.S. Now time is running out, as most of the developed world has signed up to the agreement; leaving only the EU, Mexico and Switzerland still undecided. The final push to stop the agreement is being aimed at the European Parliament (EP), which has the ability to stop ACTA from being enacted. For now time is on their side, as the debate is scheduled for June. However, considering that the U.S, Japan, and many other trading partners to the EU have already signed the agreement, it looks unlikely that ACTA will be blocked; which would be a devastating blow to cyber-libertarianism worldwide.
However, the protest movements and awareness raising campaigns against ACTA are still growing; they do have time to convince the MEPs to reconsider the agreement. Hope has been renewed by protests breaking out in Poland against the signing of the agreement, and Kader Arif, the EP’s rapporteur for ACTA resigning over the way it has been managed by officials, stating that he had witnessed:
“[N]ever-before-seen manoeuvres” and that he “condemn[s] the whole process which led to the signature of this agreement: no consultation of the civil society, lack of transparency since the beginning of negotiations, repeated delays of the signature of the text without any explanation given, reject of Parliament’s recommendations as given in several resolutions of our assembly.”
If other MEPs follow Kader Arif’s lead then maybe a snow-ball rebellion can build up in the EP; possibly enough MEPs will revolt to strike down this draconian trade agreement. Perhaps cyber-libertarianism will remain supreme, perhaps states and politicians will realise freedom is not theirs to take, but rather, an unalienable human right. Perhaps one day the people will wake up…
Further Reading and Watching: