After the successful fight against both the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, governments around the world thought it would be a good time to showcase that they’re secretly discussing ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Acting basically as a worldwide version of SOPA, the bill has already been opposed by various countries with the European Parliament due to send ACTA to the European Court of Justice. However, they’ve decided against that and will instead make the decisions themselves in regards whether to pass it or not. Thus, the bill could be passed in the next ten weeks.

What’s surprising is the nature of how the confirmation of not sending ACTA to Europe’s highest court has been carried out. Protests in European regions had taken place with the committee responsible for ACTA in the European Commission responding to the protests by stating they would send ACTA to the European Court of Justice. This would have led to seeing if the controversial legislation would be eligible with human rights and such. If they had decided to consult with the court, an extra year or two would have been added onto ACTA before a decision could be made for it to be passed or not.

However, a decision in the parliament as opposed to seeking the help of the European Court of Justice has instead taken place. ACTA is now going to passed or failed within the European Parliament with the final vote being decided in the next ten weeks.

The procedure of ACTA being processed will commence with the numerous committees of the European Parliament debating on whether to pass it or not. The International Trade Committee (INTC), the committee who decided against not sending ACTA off to court, will be the first of those committees, in addition to at least two or three more committees processing the legislation between the duration of April and May.

A final vote within the European Parliament will take place sometime during June, believed to be between June 11th 14th.

Considering the fact that if ACTA doesn’t get passed by a vote within the European Parliament, it’ll be effectively killed as was the case with both SOPA and PIPA. However, if ACTA were to pass, such countries who have signed the law will gain unprecedented control over the laws on the Internet.

Like SOPA and PIPA, ACTA has to be failed at all costs. Having it passed would have devastating consequences on how the Internet currently operates. Pressure on the European Parliament has to be upped if we’re to protect the Internet; we must not treat ACTA as a law which will be eventually failed as SOPA and PIPA were; the latter two bills were failed due to the strong objection and action taken by people.

To take action against ACTA, contact your local MEP via the necessary contact links at STOPACTA. More information on how to act can also be found here. Other ways to act against ACTA include (via EquanimousMind):

So, what exactly is ACTA? As the bill has been discussed in private before countries started to sign it (full text of the treaty - via heyheysharon), not much has obviously been disclosed. However, now we do know the bill has elements that brings up serious concerns relating to consumers’ privacy, as well as the free flow of information that occurs on the Internet. Furthermore, thanks to a leaked document (the treaty text is available now, as stated above) entitled the “Discussion Paper on a Possible Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement” via an anonymous source, a better idea is generated as to the power that will be delivered to content industry rights-holders groups.

ACTA would essentially “encourage ISPs to cooperate with right holders in the removal of infringing material”, in addition to giving authorities more search powers. The legislation would effectively see Internet Service Providers complying with news laws that identify and remove infringing material from the Internet. That’s not all, though. Said groups who are in support of ACTA have stated that mandatory filtering by ISPs should be carried out such as ending users’ Internet connection if they repeat copyright infringement.

Members of Polish parliament sporting Anonymous masks to protest against ACTA.

Ask yourself: would you really be able to freely use the Internet without the constant question of whether the government are watching and ready to strike whenever alleged copyright infringement is utilized in one way or another? Reddit sparked the global blackout day on January 18th which saw websites, including Reddit itself, as well as Wikipedia (who garnered over 100 million unique users being exposed to the SOPA/PIPA message) going offline for 24 hours in order to raise awareness of SOPA and PIPA. The very next day, various sponsors pertaining to both SOPA and PIPA backed out causing PIPA’s lead sponsor canning the bill, as well as SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith having no decision – due to the strong objection – shelving his legislation.

Don’t delay, take action as soon as you possibly can and spread the message. You may not have the mindset of believing only just one person making a difference, but that’s the exact truth here: these individuals taking action eventually leads to millions of others following suit by taking action, evidenced clearly via SOPA and PIPA.