Anti-ACTA anger is on the rise in Europe.
Demonstrators will flood more than 200 cities across Europe on Saturday to speak out against ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Intended to combat counterfeiting, its critics fear it will lead to censorship and infringements on online privacy.
Latitude News reported on the controversy back in January when the agreement was signed by a raft of European countries. It had already been signed by President Obama in October.
ACTA is under fire partly because of the way it was negotiated – in secret, according to its critics; and partly because of the adverse effect these critics think it will have on freedom of expression and communication privacy.
The Germans rally
In Europe, Poland has led the charge against ACTA. But now the Germans are joining in. They’ve decided to put signing on hold; and according to the news magazine Der Spiegel anti-ACTA demonstrations will take place in 50 German cities on Saturday.
Germany’s Minister of Justice, Sabine-Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, told Der Spiegel she welcomes the public debate that’s taking place. She says Germany won’t make a decision on ACTA until there’s first been a vote in the European Parliament.
Critics accuse the German minister of hypocrisy and hiding behind procedure. They say the German cabinet decided last year to sign ACTA and only a technical hold-up prevented their ambassador in Japan from taking part in a signing ceremony was held for European countries in January.
“Pure opportunism,” complains one political opponent in a Tweet about the Justice Minister. “Wave it through in Germany, but shove the responsibility onto the European Parliament.
And here Mitchell Baker of the Mozilla Foundation, which is dedicated to openness on the Internet, sets out the case against ACTA.
The BBC has an interesting sideline on this; the Internet hackers group Anonymous has played a leading role in challenging ACTA. They have drawn their inspiration partly from a 1980s comic strip, V for Vendetta, in which the main character disguises himself by means of a Guy Fawkes mask. I’ve posted about this elsewhere on this site. The BBC has been talking to the strip’s author.