In Berlin, Netizens Protest Against 'ACTA'

Feb 15, 2012
Originally published on February 22, 2012 12:52 pm

Thousands of netizens braved the cold streets of Berlin on Saturday as part of a day of global protests against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

Although, Germany's government announced on the eve of the protests that it would delay the signing of the plurilateral agreement, Nyan Cat, Y u no guy, and other well-known internet memes joined around 10,000 others to show their opposition to ACTA, an agreement digital rights groups, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EEF) and European Digital Rights (EDRi) say will limit internet freedoms.

ACTA aims to establish international standards for enforcing intellectual property rights and includes provisions on counterfeit goods, online piracy, and generic medicines.

Journalist Matthias Spielkamp and others addressed the Berlin crowd, slamming ACTA for its "draconian measures," which they say could result in internet users serving prison sentences for sharing or using copyrighted material.

Speakers also criticized what they say are the secret and undemocratic nature of the ACTA negotiations, calling for a more inclusive procedure encompassing civic groups as well as entertainment industry representatives.

Twenty-two out of 27 EU member states have signed ACTA, and many have already started national ratification processes.

Poland suspended ratification following public pressure. Online activist group, Anonymous, also subjected Polish government websites to denial of service attacks in protest against the pending ACTA ratification.

For ACTA to be adopted as EU law, the EU Parliament must vote on whether to accept or reject it. The legislation will be passed onto parliament in February with a view to holding a vote in May after discussions with the International Trade Committee (ICT) as the body in charge.

While the parliament passed a resolution in favor of the EU signing the agreement back in 2010, the wave of protests means it is coming under increasing pressure to reject ACTA.

***Correction 2/22/12: The quote by Matthias Spielkamp above was misdirected. Mr. Spielkamp did not use the words, "draconian measures." Another speaker at the same protest used the phrase. Mr. Spielkamp says he believes ACTA should not be passed, but they were not, in fact, "draconian measures."

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