With all the recent news, several European countries announcing they were going to hold off on ratifying or signing of the ACTA agreement, major newspapers announcing that ACTA is dead, the EU Court of Justice ruling that social networks can’t be forced to monitor their users for copyright violations, it would be easy to make the mistake of believing that the fight against ACTA is over and that the opponents of the agreement have won. However, this is far from true.
It is true that public opinion at the moment is against ACTA. With national parliaments holding off on signing, waiting for the EU parliament or the EU supreme court or wanting to examine if ACTA is in violation of fundamental human rights, the ACTA rapporteur stepping down, ministers of economy offering their resignation and even politicians offering letters of apology for signing ACTA, it seems beyond imagination that ACTA will pass. However, this is not beyond imagination or reality at all. The protesters against ACTA may have won round 1, but the fight isn’t fought yet.
For one, while several countries have announced holding off on signing ACTA, none have announced they will not sign ACTA now or in the future. They are simply waiting. Waiting for more clarity on what the agreement will mean or waiting until the protests have run out, protesters have spent their energy. Once the general public loses interest, political opinion may change again.
Also, we should not forget that we are dealing with mighty opponents when it comes to ACTA. Opponents who have strong, well-funded and well-connected lobbying networks. They are currently working in overdrive to influence politicians and decision-makers to change their minds, to convince them that ACTA is good and that the protesters are simply misinformed. Some go even further, claiming that the protests are sabotaging the democratic process around ACTA. I would be inclined to say that those who write that have not understood what democracy means, yet they do write it. Personally, I think the protests are a sign that democracy is still alive and kicking, especially in Eastern Europe and Germany where huge crowds gathered to let their voice be heard.
The new rapporteur on ACTA, David Martin, has said that he wants to get a lot of opinions on board and wants to have the EU Court of Justice examine if the ACTA agreement conflicts with existing laws. This means the European Parliament vote on ACTA might get postponed from June of 2012 to the spring of 2013. That is a long time to keep up protests and influencing the opinion of politicians. This may be an elaborate stalling tactic, especially because David Martin has a track record of defending interests of industry. He may be the wrong choice to be rapporteur on ACTA, depending on your viewpoint of course.
Considering the above and the expectation that there will almost certainly come an ACTA mark 2, the opponents of ACTA need to realise that they are in this for the long haul. After all, the industry mantra of “piracy, piracy, piracy” is not going to go away any time soon. Neither should we, if we care about our freedom.