At this moment, European leaders are deciding whether to sign a deal that could let corporations police everything we do online. But across the globe, citizens are catching on to this threat, and have built a massive global movement to kill the proposal and secure freedom from online censorship.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, known as Acta, is a new legal framework intended to tighten up copyright and patent laws. In particular, it targets the online distribution of counterfeit goods, unbranded medicines, and copyright infringement on the web.
The agreement was negotiated behind closed doors, with drafts declared a "state secret" that NGOs and the public weren't allowed to view, while lobbyists, big pharma and the entertainment industry were invited in for full access to the negotiations. The result is a bill that requires countries to criminalise file sharing, shut down production of certain life-saving drugs, and search computer hard drives at their borders for copyrighted music and movies.
Acta, like many international trade agreements, sets up an entire legal system outside of the international institutions our governments participate in, like the UN, and also outside the bounds of national governments. This ensures the public has no say in how Acta is enforced, no power to change it and, most importantly, no real forum to challenge what it deems a violation.
Time to fight back
Many countries (including Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States) have already signed on to Acta, but activists are now launching legal challenges. In the US, for example, President Obama issued an executive order to push Acta through, but there are questions about whether this move is constitutional without the approval of Congress. Only a few weeks ago, US lawmakers set aside a similarly restrictive measure, SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act), after a huge public outcry.
Now it's time to send a strong message to European leaders, to stop them before it's too late. This deal affects all of us. Major corporations were invited into the room and shaped the terms around their interests, while hundreds of millions of citizens were kept in the dark. If the process is undemocratic, the product will be too.
Take action: We need to be vigilant to protect internet freedom. Tell members of the European parliament that you support a free and open internet.