ACTA: International Online Censorship

On February 4, approximately 2,000 people marched in protest against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Another 100 protests are expected to take place this week across Europe in opposition ACTA,  an international agreement that aims to establish a worldwide legalized system of enforcement against counterfeit goods and piracy on the Internet.

ACTA has already been signed by the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea.  It is currently awaiting ratification in the European Parliament.

Proposed in 2007, ACTA has been secretly negotiated behind closed doors between governments, and was signed by President Obama in 2011.

Similar to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), ACTA aims to combat online piracy and copyright infringement.

However, opponents fear that this new legislation will threaten free speech and an open Internet on a worldwide scale.

“I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement:  no inclusion of civil society organisations, a lack of transparency from the start of negotiations […] This agreement might have major consequences on citizens’ lives…” stated Kader Arif, the ex-rapporteur for ACTA in the European Parliament.  As a result, Arif quit his role as rapporteur.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the same ACTA supporters have called for network-level monitoring and termination of services by Internet Service Providers on repeated cases of copyright infringement.

This monitoring could lead to a “deep packet inspection of citizens’ internet communications,” reported to the EFF.  Citizens’ privacy rights and civil liberties could be in danger.  The “future of internet innovation,” says the EFF, could be stifled.

Similar to ACTA, the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), an international agreement with even more restrictions on copyright infringement is currently being quietly negotiated by various governments.