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Saturday, February 18, 2012

ACTA Protestors Not Afraid Of Getting Cold

Tens of thousands of people took part in rallies all over Europe against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (better known as ACTA treaty). The latter is believed to give the entertainment industry too much power to filter the Internet.
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In Bulgaria, whose entire economy would collapse if ACTA is passed, because nobody can afford western prices for software, over 4,000 young people gathered in its capital, Sofia, to express their protest. This appeared to be a really remarkable event, because young people in Sofia don’t normally participate in protests. They worry that downloading films and songs might lead to jail sentences after ACTA is ratified. Other fears are that exchanging content online may become a crime. In addition, critics claim that the treaty will allow for massive online surveillance.

According to media reports, over 25,000 demonstrators also braved freezing temperatures in Germany to protest against ACTA. In addition, there were also a number of protests in London, Dublin, Warsaw, Prague, Bucharest, Vilnius, Paris, and Brussels. The reason why opposition to the agreement in Eastern Europe is so strong is that ACTA reminds many of the surveillance used by Stalinist regimes. After all, the countries didn’t get rid of Stalin just to hand over their freedom to the entertainment industry.

The main mistake of the content industry is that is has been hitting the poor former Eastern Bloc states with the same prices as in western countries. At the same time, the average salary in Bulgaria is only about $300 per month. It is no surprise that unauthorized downloading and piracy has filled the gap, with many firms running on hot copies of Windows.

The entertainment industry might point out that this makes people pirates, while the protesters would point out that they actually need the government to step in and force the content industry to be more reasonable instead of simply enforcing their ridiculous pricing with an iron rod.

Critics point out that the protests would have been even more dramatic had they not been carried out in such a cold winter. One has to be truly committed to show up in central Berlin with the temperatures being -10 Celsius. However, protesting still seems to be having some effect. For instance, Germany’s foreign ministry has already announced that the country will hold off on signing ACTA.

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