Only a few hours away from the final vote of the European Parliament on the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the supporters of a free Internet marche again to the frontlines. Beyond the mere result in Strasbourg, they want to create a momentum to protect a series of fundamental rights on the Web.
The Trade Agreement is a multinational treaty aiming at fighting the trade of counterfeit goods. It however triggered widespread outcry. Its opponents accuse ACTA, among other things, to have been secretly negotiated, to threaten fundamental rights, freedom of expression, online privacy and to criminalize generic drugs. On February 11th 2012, thousands of people demonstrated throughout Europe against the treaty.
The treaty has since then been rejected in five different commissions at the European Parliament and as the final vote on July 4th is nearing, tension rises. Last controversy to date, on July 2nd Swedish MEP Christopher Fjellner, member of the right-wing European People Party (EPP) and rapporteur of ACTA for the EPP, asked to postpone the vote.
In a press release, he explained he would like to wait for the European court of justice’s ruling. Doing so, “we would have legal guarantees that ACTA is not in violation of any of the treaties or the basic human rights” he said.
This call has been seen by anti-ACTA groups as an evasive action to gain time. Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson of the advocacy group La Quadrature du Net, reacted energetically on Twitter:
Tricks again! Disgraceful! RT
<a href="https://twitter.com/EPPGroup">EPPGroup</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%2523EPP">#EPP</a> will ask during tomorrow's debate on <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%2523ACTA">#ACTA</a> for a postponement of the vote until ECJ's ruling.</p>— Jérémie Zimmermann (jerezim) Juillet 2, 2012
On the eve of the vote, each sides stood firmly their ground. During the final debate in Strasbourg before the plenary sesssion, David Martin, Labour MEP from Scotland rejected the treaty. For once, he argued, “the devil hides in the lack of details,” before adding “this vague text is dangerous.” On the other side, Karel de Gucht, the European Commissioner for Trade tried to soothe the minds of the anti-ACTA. “What was legal before the treaty will still be legal, what was illegal will remain illegal” he explained, among other things.
The ant-ACTA groups mobilize their members until the very last moment and ask them to contact their MEP to try and change their mind. “The ALDE, Greens, GUE/NGL and S&D groups have already taken a clear position against the Agreement. We should focus on EPP and ECR members” advises the European Digital Right association ( www.edri.org/stopacta), which gather 32 privacy and civil rights organisations from 20 european countries.
At the same time, elsewhere on the Web, veterans of the movements against such laws as SOPA and PIPA, whose day of action on January 18th 2012 had clustered together 100,000 websites and over 7 million internet users, have drafted the world’s first Declaration of Internet Freedom (www.internetdeclaration.org/freedom).
In less than 120 words, the drafters, a gathering of more than 85 organizations, have laid the foundation for five main principles for a free Internet: no censorship, protection of online privacy, a push for an universal access to fast and affordable networks, keeping the Internet an open network and fostering innovation.