An ag(e)ing hacker, Luca Saiu's blog
2012-02-11 02:01 (last update: 2019-10-06 02:40) Luca Saiu

ACTA as a test for democracy in Europe

The conflict couldn’t be more clear. On one side you have the copyright and patent lobbies pushing for even more draconian measures against private behavior, more limitations to freedom of expression, and more power for them on top of what they already have in this war of the rich against the poor.

On the other side, of course, there is the public interest.

Seeing what the European Parliament does on this occasion will be a test of its worth: will another European institution bend to the pressure of rich lobbies, or will it respect its democratic mandate? Will it prove not to be one more corrupt institution layered on top of the others in this Europe getting every day farther from its people?


Members of the European Parliament, remember: you may sell your vote or your conscience — because, make no mistake: the very moment you lend yourself to this abuse you abdicate your public mandate, paid or not. You may censor the Net, you may turn Internet Service Providers into a private copyright police, you may prevent generic drugs from being produced at a reasonable price in order to serve the interests of the pharmaceutical companies, enriching them at a huge human cost. You may do all of this.

But history will remember.

And before history, people will remember you. They won’t forget your name, and your stance. If that day you voted for the people, or against them. History will remain and that, you can’t censor.

About ACTA

I will only sum up the main points of ACTA and the objections I personally find most important. Others have presented the issue in a more complete way and better than I ever could. I particularly recommend the very well-documented web site of the association La Quadrature du Net, liked below and my main source here.

ACTA is an international treaty, which the European Commission is now pushing for the European Parliament to sign. The name stands for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, but its name is intentionally misleading. It has very little to do with actual counterfeiting of physical goods; rather, it deals with the circulation of abstract ideas and abstract works, mainly copyright and patents.

ACTA aims at strengthening the already considerable privileges granted by copyrights and patents. The treaty is pushed by private lobbies and in particular by Hollywood, bio-tech and pharmaceutical companies. Negotiations have been kept secret even to elected national governments for three years, bypassing democratic debate, until a copy was leaked in 2010 by one concerned insider1. This aspect alone should illustrate the bad faith of the parts involved.

In the field of network communication, ACTA would add more new criminal sanctions against even private non-commercial sharing, even on a small scale. Internet Service Providers would be made legally accountable for their customers’ network traffic, forcing them to become a private copyright police with the power of preventively censor any form of communication even just suspected of being infringing.

As for counterfeiting itself, the point is essentially moot: all the four countries where counterfeiting is most prevalent (China, Brazil, Russia and India) have simply announced that they will not sign ACTA2. Counterfeiting is another propaganda term. And despite the propaganda, ACTA is not thought for the needs of the small and medium enterprises so prevalent in Europe: the treaty’s sponsors which would profit from it are a small group of huge companies, for the most part not European.

ACTA is pushed by Hollywood, bio-tech and pharmaceutical companies lobbying to further strengthen their already huge privileges and legal monopolies, invading more and more of the public’s rights. In order to fight this unbalance legislation has to be amended to weaken the power granted by copyright and patents. ACTA would go the opposite way.

Moreover, as an international treaty, ACTA would be nearly impossible to amend and update, despite the dynamic and evolving nature of the way culture is created and shared. Such rigid measures are not the right fit for continuously changing communication media.

The European Parliament must firmly reject ACTA. By doing this the European Parliament will send a strong signal, as the only European institution democratically elected by direct popular vote.

For more information

This appeal to the Members of the European Parliament is public. Please circulate it and translate into other languages

2019-10-06 update: I received a message from the communications officer of Selectra, a UK firm, informing me that the link above to the official EU site containing the ACTA text ( is now dead. She asked me to link instead. I have not compared the copy against the original and cannot guarantee that it is faithful. I am not informed about Selectra’s stake in the matter, particularly now in late 2019, and will not speculate about the reason for it to contact me about a broken link to an EU web site.

See for an assessment of the entire story. Apart from ACTA, about democracy in the EU in general I am now even more disillusioned than in 2012.

— Luca Saiu, 2012-02-11 02:01 (last update: 2019-10-06 02:40)

acta, censorship, english, politics

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