I am getting quite a bit of feedback in my mailbox about all my campaigning and posts against ACTA. Much of it has been in support and I thank you for that. There has been no negative feedback, for which I am very grateful. However, I also receive messages along the lines of “I don’t think you can stop ACTA” or “Why should I care about ACTA, I’m not doing anything illegal?” To the first type of messages, I can only say that you are right. I can not stop ACTA. But I am not alone, there are many of us. Countries like Poland, the Czech republic and Slovakia have already postponed the ratification of ACTA because of the public uproar. So yes, I can not stop ACTA. We can!
I can’t tell you why you should care about ACTA but I can tell you why I care about ACTA and then it is for you to decide if those reasons concern you too. So here we go, the main reasons why I oppose ACTA.
Why I oppose ACTA
- ACTA threatens freedom of speech and freedom of information
The interests of (major) companies will prevail over fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech, the right to privacy, etc.
- Free speech would be at the mercy of private companies
Internet service providers would be required to police the internet, a job for which they are neither equipped nor a job they desire.
- ACTA was negotiated in secret
No elected officials were involved in the negotiations of ACTA. The negotiations excluded developing nations, European and national parliaments and established institutions such as the WTO, WIPO and the UN.
- ACTA will create a new and undemocratic body with far-reaching responsibilities
It will call into being the “ACTA Committee” to implement and interpret ACTA without clearly defining the responsibilities of this committee and without setting up any form of accountability. This is highly undemocratic.
- ACTA threatens net neutrality
ACTA proposes increased liability for “intermediaries” such as Internet service providers in case of copyright infringement. In actuality this will mean that your ISP is partly responsible if you happen to infringe on anyone’s copyright, even if you do this without knowing. This is a ridiculous proposition. After all, nobody will hold the phone company liable if I choose to fax someone trade secrets of a corporation. ACTA does not see ISPs as mere conduits, which will mean they will be forced to police their users or risk legal action. Don’t expect your ISP to fight your legal battles for you. Most ISPs will simply cave in because the cost of (multiple) legal battles will simply be too great for them.
- ACTA threatens your privacy
Because of the increased liability of intermediaries, ISPs will take up monitoring their users, to see if and when they infringe. This monitoring will mean an invasion of your privacy: your ISP will monitor all that you see and do online.
ACTA is unfair to Europe
If the EU decides to ratify and sign ACTA, it will be bound to implement and enforce it because it sees ACTA as a legally binding treaty. However, the US has already indicated it sees ACTA as a non-binding” understanding. This will mean that the US can choose when and if it will follow ACTA. This could mean an unfair advantage to US companies.This is no longer true, since the US Trade Department has announced that ACTA is indeed binding for the US as well, should President Obama sign it. More information is available here.
- ACTA contradicts current European laws and safeguards
Such as freedom of speech, the right to privacy and due process and others.
- ACTA is unclear
The agreement text of ACTA is vague and open to interpretation. This will create confusion about how to interpret and possibly enforce certain aspects of ACTA. Obviously, clarity should be paramount when drafting such a far-reaching agreement.
These arguments and several more, can all be found in an excellent booklet that the EDRI has compiled, outlining clearly why people should be concerned about ACTA. The booklet is available in several languages (unfortunately no Dutch).
Update 2012-02-14: A translation in Dutch is now available from the Dutch Piratenpartij. You can download it from here.