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This year saw two huge victories for digital activism: against SOPA in the US, and against ACTA in the EU. The big question is now: what will be the next moves of those behind SOPA and ACTA as they seek to regain the initiative? For SOPA, we've had a clue in the call for a " Son of SOPA " from the US Chamber of Commerce. But what about the European Commission? Although it is supposedly waiting for the European Court of Justice to rule on the compatibility or otherwise of ACTA with European law, that's more a matter of saving face -- even a positive result there is not going to bring ACTA back in its original form.
What Is ACTA? The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is an agreement to create new global intellectual property (IP) enforcement standards that go beyond current international law, shifting the discussion from more democratic multilateral forums, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), to secret regional negotiations. Through ACTA, the US aims to hand over increased authority to enforcement agencies to act on their own initiative, to seize any goods that are related to infringement activities (including domain names), criminalize circumvention of digital security technologies, and address piracy on digital networks. ACTA was negotiated from 2007 through 2010 by the US, the EU, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore, Morocco, Japan, and South Korea. Eight out of the eleven negotiating countries signed the agreement in October 2011.
ACTA (1), a treaty designed to attack the rights of computer users in some 40-odd countries -- and others later -- is encountering increasing opposition. ACTA threatens, in a disguised way, to punish Internet users with disconnection if they are accused of sharing, and requires countries to prohibit software that can break Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), also known as digital handcuffs (2). In advance of a secret meeting of government representatives to plan the attack, New Zealand citizens organized their own public meeting, PublicACTA, to criticize it. The attendees published the Wellington Declaration , calling on the ACTA negotiators to reject several injustices that they suspected might appear in the treaty. This event was a milestone in the fight against ACTA.
( For the background behind this statement, see "Why the Firm, Simple Declaration Against ACTA" . ) ACTA must respect sharing and cooperation: it must do nothing that would hinder the unremunerated noncommercial making, copying, giving, lending, owning, using, transporting, importing or exporting of any objects or works. ACTA must not weasel about what is commercial: no labeling of any noncommercial activities as somehow commercial-like or treating them as if they were commercial.