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Blog: ACTA goes the way of 8-track tapes

Greens give thumbs down to ACTA

Here at the EGP offices, we have been keeping ACTA as visible as possible. Images from the marches, posters on the site, collections of statements and opposition, links to anything and everything to make it sure that this was, and is, fundamental to the Green party. And we got to hold our heads high in delight as the vote failed, ACTA was defeated - and then we watched our Facebook page as visits and likes and shares and comments escalated to levels almost four times higher than we have ever seen on our site. The Green community gathered and responded and shared and rejoiced. The response has been overwhelming.

Greens celebrate the defeat of ACTAI have spent the last four weeks waiting for the final ACTA vote. Really. Yes, my life is that sad.

But I have been waiting, fingers crossed that ACTA would not just be voted down, but that it would be whipped in the European Parliament and sent out from the house, humiliated, kicked to the curb, and with its proverbial tail between its legs. Well, that seems to have happened. I don't think anybody could have expected a result more emphatic than this. With 478 MEPs voting to refuse the legislation, ACTA suffered one of the most emphatic defeats of any legislation that has gone to the parliament. 
 
ACTA or democracy - your choiceACTA was a mess from the outset. But it was immensely worrying because the issue had been simplified to one issue - that people were stealing and sharing films, music, TV shows over the internet and this had to be stopped. We all know it has been happening and we all know, at some level, that this is wrong. But ACTA had a scope far wider in its reach and far more pernicious. This was a cold-blooded legislative proposal that was Draconian in its impact. It had all the modern day relevance as 8-track tapes (ask your parents - if even they are old enough) and about the same subtlety.
 
ACTA belongs to a world designed by George Orwell.But this simplistic (simple is good, simplistic is bad) argument - stealing is wrong - was the mainstay of ACTA and was the mainstay question by the media. They really did a poor job in expanding the issue beyond the most banal. And it was this simplistic approach that gave ACTA traction. It was in the more geek-speak journals that a better presentation could be found. Unfortunately, they often spoke in a way, at a level, that would have left mainstream voters dazed and confused.
 
And stealing is wrong... a simplistic message that had wrapped itself like a python around the everyday opinion. Artists need to be protected. Artists are vulnerable. Creativity will be crushed. Artists, musicians, are suffering. Patents, creativity, has to be protected. Thieves should be stopped.
 
ACTA steadily made ground in the mainstream thinking. 

ACTA protest gallery on EGP Facebook siteThere was clear opposition to the legislation. The Greens were amongst the first to state their discontent, to express their disdain, for ACTA. And, over time, the Greens created one of the best platforms for opposition. They saw far further than artists and copyright p

rotection and saw a simplistic law (once again, simple is good, simplistic is bad) that would give immense powers to corporations, infringe upon individual civil liberties, impact our everyday communications, threaten established artistic practice and threaten universal health care. Yes, ACTA would have had impact on health care through restrictions on generic medicines. This is a fight that has been going on for a decade or more with the major pharmaceutical industries and the control  they have over patents - preventing fair use of drug patents to create generic versions of key AIDS medicines to save, literally, millions of lives across the world. ACTA would have a direct, immediate and far-reaching impact on these lives.
 
So here we are with legislation that has key issues of privacy invasion, civil rights infringement, health care, generic medicines, Big Brother presence, corporate justice ... and we keep coming back to one issue. People are downloading films and musics for free over the internet. The issue was simplistic.
 
ACTA kept getting traction in the mainstream because we failed to get the other issues onto the table. The media went for the sexy, trendy issue. The simplistic issue (simplistic is bad). And other key players, organizations that, collectively, had spent years and hundreds of thousands (millions?) of Euros fighting copyright issues on other fields, were almost mute. Opposition to ACTA became a defense of the internet - and that should never have been the sole battleground. Where was the screaming outcry that should have come from other voices? There was some murmuring and complaining - but where was the howling, deafening outrage?
 
And ACTA kept getting headlines, and public traction, because stealing is wrong. Simplistic and winning - it seemed.
 
So, I am grateful to the 478 politicians. The 478 members of the European Parliament, the elected officials, who took the time to look past the simplistic (bad) messages, the bullying lobbying, and who actually understood that there was far more at stake here than some teenagers sharing music.
 
I am grateful to the Green party who created the list of 50 Reasons to Reject ACTA (read more...), detailing the litany of abuses that would be unleashed if ACTA was passed. The steady supply of statements, press releases, opinion pieces and articles opposing ACTA constantly, methodically and frequently.  I am grateful to the people who took the time to protest in marches, write Facebook posts, share links, pen blogs, press the issues into their circles, call or write their MEPs, do something, anything, in a  small, medium and large voice of protest.
 

Vendetta mask was a symbol of opposition to ACTA

And it is not lost on me that the internet, the very tool that this legislation was so aggressive towards, is the very tool that was so instrumental in its downfall.
 
I was, and am, so very pleased with the iconic symbol of protest the anti-ACTA collective rallied around - the Fawkes mask from the film Vendetta. Anonymous and all-present. That simple (remember, simple is good) icon had real depth.
 
Greens celebrate the defeat of ACTA in the European ParliamentThat was not the only icon. The vote was a stunner. What came next was a visual coup for the Greens. Once the vote was in, the Greens raised their simple (remember, good) posters, "Hello Democracy, Goodbye ACTA". Walls of celebration. Smiling and celebrating Greens rejoicing in the defeat. We had photos on the Green websites immediately. They were on Facebook and tweeted and placed to Instagram and shared profusely. And the press photographers in the room followed with their mages - quick to get to the wire press services. And you only have to toddle off to Google, search for ACTA and then look at the images return and you can see the poster used all across the media. National newspapers from all over the world have used the images. The Greens celebrating. Oh, click on this link and make it easy on yourself.
 
And here at the EGP offices, we have been keeping ACTA as visible as possible. Images from the marches, posters on the site, collections of statements and opposition, links to anything and everything to make it sure that this was, and is, fundamental to the Green party. And we got to hold our heads high in delight as the vote failed, ACTA was defeated - and then we watched our Facebook page as visits and likes and shares and comments escalated to levels almost four times higher than we have ever seen on our site. The Green community gathered and responded and shared and rejoiced. The response has been overwhelming.
 
Yesterday was a good day.
 
And, I have been hinting at this on the website over the past week. ACTA came from a misguided American proposal and went to the European vote on America's Independence Day, July 4, and was pounded out. It was both ironic and an affirmation of what the USA population purports to hold dear - their freedom (even writing that makes me flinch - like listening to a lousy dialogue). I smiled a little more when the defeat was announced.
 
The question now is, what next? Counterfeiting has to be addressed. Copyright has to be brought to a modern vision. We all know that sharing music over the internet is simply not the same as some 1980s college student making cassettes for his next road trip. But copyright has to develop within the confines of individual liberties and not regardless of them. The Greens have made it clear that the issue must be addressed in a commonsense way. Time to ditch the 8-track tape thinking and start looking at the copyright issue in the 21st century. 
 
And, next time (yes, there will be a next time), we will have to do better in getting the range of issues into the public eye and not let the debate turn simplistic, again.

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