Protests against Internet censorship will blanket Europe this weekend, while Germany and Latvia announced Friday they would put the brakes on signing a copyright treaty that has sparked controversy across the continent.
More than 200,000 people have committed to attending rallies in 200 cities to protest the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or “ACTA.”
“The map of planned protests is just breathtaking,” said Holmes Wilson, co-founder of anti-ACTA group Fight for the Future. “You’ve got tens of thousands of people taking to the streets in small cities, in countries where large street protests are not common.”
Proponents of ACTA say that the treaty will help fight global copyright theft. Opponents, fresh off the SOPA and PIPA battlefields, argue that ACTA will harm free speech on the Internet. They also accuse the treaty’s architects of holding negotiations away from the public eye.“This is truly the Internet’s Arab Spring,” said Fight for the Future co-founder Tiffiniy Cheng. “People are rising up against anti-democratic laws that stifle individual freedoms. And they’re organizing spontaneously, without leaders, using tools available to everyone.”Public opposition to the treaty has already struck Europe. Last month, thousands of people in Poland took to the streets in protest while the European rapporteur for ACTA resigned after calling the negotiation process a “charade.”It appears some European leaders have been listening to ACTA’s naysayers. Germany and Latvia’s decision to delay signing ACTA puts them in league with Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, who have also halted the process.A German foreign ministry spokesperson said that the country needed “time to carry out further discussions” about the treaty, the BBC reported.ACTA was signed by the U.S. and Japan in 2006. Australia, Canada, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea signed on last year and the European Union signed last month, but no country’s legislature has yet ratified the treaty. ACTA will go into force when ratified by at least six countries.