Earlier this month, individuals and companies came together to defend a free, uncensored internet. Here, a Bristol-based board member of the Wikimedia UK group defended the decision for a ‘black-out’ of the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia, in protest against the proposed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act), as the piracy laws “threatened freedom of speech”.
The protest led to eight US lawmakers withdrawing their support for the proposed bills. But while action is being taken against SOPA and PIPA, an even more insidious US internet law is making its way under the radar through the legislative process… and you need to be aware of it now.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was initiated and agreed upon in secret by people who were not democratically elected and therefore cannot be guaranteed to work solely in the public’s best interest.
On the surface, ACTA is designed to protect the entertainment industry from people sharing and copying their goods for free over the internet. But like its threatening but now mostly-crippled counterparts, SOPA and PIPA, putting it into practice would have far-reaching suppressive consequences.
If ACTA is implemented, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Virgin and BT will be held legally accountable for the online behaviour of all their customers. Merely to avoid being prosecuted, they will be forced to put systems in place to examine every single data packet travelling in and out of your computer, and to employ thousands of people whose entire job it is to do the monitoring.
Informing a friend about a technique or skill you learned in an online course? Uploading a video on YouTube of your friends or children where copyrighted music just happens to be playing in the background? Putting up a photo on Facebook where a brand logo is obviously displayed, even if it’s a tattoo on your own body? Sending a song for a friend to listen to which they just might otherwise have paid for? Any of those things could result in denial of internet access, fines or even imprisonment.
Websites designed around user-generated content, not only the big names like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter but also the smaller, upstarting and alternative sites would be forced to drastically change the way they run – perhaps only allowing tweets and uploads after they have been approved by an administrator – or risk being fined or shut down. It’s not difficult to imagine what that would do to freedom of speech if that was the internet of tomorrow.
SOPA and PIPA got millions of people’s blood running in defence of a free uncensored internet, and those people are finally responding to ACTA, after it has passed under the radar for so long. Representatives from America, the USA and many European Union member states have signed for ACTA, but it needs to be passed through in a vote by the European Parliament, which is thought to be taking place in June.
There is still time. Act Now. Protect the internet by signing the petition below, contacting an MEP and spreading the word about ACTA.