Stop ACTA: write to the EP

ACTA, if you are even slightly interested in your rights on-line you will have heard about it. The document, although it encompasses more than just your on-line life, is meant to combat piracy: the free flow of copyrighted material made possible by the internet. Recently, the proposed text has been released. There are severe implications for your life on-line, if this agreement is accepted by the negotiation partners (the European Union, the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia and a couple of other countries), things like filtering of internet traffic and even permanent disconnection from the internet are possible facts of reality that you will have to contend with. It is therefore time to act, and write to the members of the European parliament to convince them to vote against the dangerous parts of this proposed agreement.

Now I admit, reading through the almost 40 pages of legalese is not for everyone. Luckily, the EFF (the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a long-standing fighter for your rights online) has written an excellent summary on the document. I recommend reading that if you don’t want to read the actual document itself. There is also a nice Dutch summary written by BOF (Bits of Freedom, sort of the national counterpart of the EFF). Both list four reasons why ACTA is dangerous:

  • Intermediate parties, the internet providers, will be made to enforce the agreement by filtering internet traffic relating to file-sharing;
  • Disconnection from the internet in case of alleged infringement of copyright, you as an internet user can be disconnected by your ISP if there is an accusation of infringement, no trial, no judge, just gone from the net;
  • Criminalization of non-commercial use, severe penalties for mere citizens such as you and I that up until now were reserved for criminals who are willfully and for profit mass-producing illegal copies of, for example, movie DVD’s;
  • Seizing of computers and other equipment in the case of alleged copyright infringement, in other words: the police can come and take your computer (and destroy it) if you use file-sharing technology, irrespective of whether you are sharing copyrighted material or not.

Several organisations so far have jumped on the ‘Stop ACTA’ bandwagon, and a simple search on ‘stop ACTA’ on a search engine of your choice will get you a whole lot of sites that are somehow trying to counter this agreement. You can sign several petitions, and you should. But in the end, a petition is just a single number, and does not impress the average member of the European parliament that much. What impresses them most: personal letters, emails or even phone calls, where citizens of their constitucy explain why they believe ACTA is not a Good Thing.

So I hereby call everyone to arms: write your members of parliament! Tell them, in your own words, why you think ACTA should not become law in Europe. The site of the European parliament can give you a list of the members that represent your country, and their contact details. Of course, you can write to all members of the EP. But, in general, members of the parliament represent the people from their own country and are therefore more likely to listen to input from their country. On the other hand, you do not have to restrict yourself to those members of parliament that are aligned with your own political preferences.

Try to make your letter personal! Don’t just copy and paste one of the many example texts that are all over the web. Rather, use them as inspiration. A thousand different emails make a bigger impression than ten-thousand copies of the same letter. You do not have to write high-quality prose ready for publiction in the papers, so even if you think yourself a bad writer I am sure you can come up with a sentence or two saying you do not want ACTA in your life.

Some members of parliament will respond to your letter, perhaps explaining why they think ACTA is a good thing, or why they agree with you that it is not. Some might not even reply, and yet in other cases you will hear from an assistant to the member of parliament. Don’t be discouraged by that. Voicing your opinion is important, and even if you do not get to speak to the member of parliament in person, your input will be passed on and considered when time comes to vote.

Act now! Stop ACTA! Write to your members of parliament!

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