In the latest news on ACTA, the European Commission has decided to refer the agreement to the European Court of Justice in order to “assess whether ACTA is incompatible – in any way – with the EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and information or data protection and the right to property in case of intellectual property.” Now one must not be fooled to think that the Commission actually cares about people’s “fundamental rights.” The Commission, which is not a democratic body elected by the European people, has been relentlessly pushing ACTA all the way through the process of negotiation and ratification without any consideration for the growing opposition from scholars and ordinary people alike. Recently, Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht sent a letter to the members of the European Parliament claiming that opposition to the treaty is “based on misinformation, or possibly even worse, on wilful misinterpretation of the content of the agreement” and warning the parliamentarians from jumping to conclusions “on basis of the number of emails received.” This is clearly a case of elitist propaganda trying to paint a picture of ignorant masses whose opinions are not worth considering.
The referral to the European Court of Justice should be seen as simply another step in this propaganda campaign. No doubt the questions will be framed so that the court will find the treaty “compatible with existing EU laws” and, therefore, not in conflict with people’s rights. Such a decision would give the pro-ACTA lobby a strong weapon to silence the opposition. The thing with ACTA is, however, that it’s been worded so loosely that it’s extremely difficult to assess what actual effects it will have on the civil society beforehand. The argument of the promoters of the agreement has all the time been that it “does not require changes in current legislation,” but that depends entirely on how the agreement will be interpreted in practice. What ACTA gives is an open charter for the copyright industry to use threats of trade sanctions to enforce tougher control measures, legal or extra-legal, whilst obstructing any intellectual property law reform that might constrain their power.
In related news, several copyright lobby groups have also approached the members of the European Parliament with a letter accusing opponents of ACTA of “attempts to silence the democratic process.” Preposterous claims like these are evidence of a systematic smearing campaign launched by the copyright industry against the European citizens who have stood up for their rights in recent weeks. Obviously, the copyright lobby isn’t prepared to give up on this lucrative treaty just yet. We should expect more propaganda and outright lies in the coming weeks as ACTA goes through several committees in the European Parliament. We need to counter this propaganda by continuing to raise awareness of the real repercussions of the treaty both amongst parliamentarians and the general public.
The coming Saturday, there will be another wave of anti-ACTA protests around Europe. A list of the protests and campaign material can be found here and a map here. See also the list of resources I compiled earlier here.