JANUARY 30, 2012–While Occupy groups across the United States have joined the protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act, few Americans are aware of another four-lettered acronym that threatens to increase copyright enforcement as well. In Poland however, hundreds have taken to the streets in protest of ACTA. Members of Poland’s parliament even wore paper cut-outs of the iconic Guy Fawkes mask in session to demonstrate their opposition to the treaty.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a treaty that has been signed by the United States and 22 member states of the European Union. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, ACTA is a response to the “proliferation of counterfeit and pirated goods [posing] considerable challenges for legitimate trade and the sustainable development of the world economy.”
Chris Dodd, a lobbyist for the Motion Picture Associate of America, in 2011 claimed ACTA is “an important step forward in strengthening international cooperation and enforcement for intellectual property rights.”
The former senator from Connecticut has fallen under intense scrutiny recently following comments he made on FOX News. Dodd stated that Hollywood “is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake.” He added, “I would caution people don’t make the assumption that because the quote “Hollywood community” has been historically supportive of Democrats, which they have, don’t make the false assumptions this year that because we did it in the past, we will do it again this year.”
Dodd immediately faced a blacklash of responses from the internet blogosphere, where many writers accused Dodd of blatantly blackmailing politicians. Many believe the statements made by Dodd infer that money from Hollywood would continue to be donated to Democratic candidates, but only if they supported the copyright enforcement desired by the MPAA.
Critics of ACTA have outlined a number of provisions in the treaty that they believe will damage citizen’s privacy and freedom of expression. The treaty may require Internet Service Providers to police their users and even deny service based on the downloading or uploading of copyright material. There are fears that if the price of maintaining an ISP rises, then the cost for their services would soon rise as well.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an online digital rights advocacy group, has opposed the treaty on the basis that it was negotiated in secret. While certain companies, including the MPAA and the Recording Industry Association of America were allowed to view copies of the treaty beforehand, it was not disclosed to the public. Requests to both the Bush and Obama administrations for disclosure were denied, according to CNET.com, because they claimed it would “damage national security.”
A number of prominent internet companies have begun asking for a boycott of Hollywood for their continuous lobbying efforts on behalf of bills such as SOPA and the Protect IP act. According to OpenSecrets.org, the MPAA has already paid $180,000 to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. According to First Street Research Group, two of the lawfirm’s partners and two senior advisors are among the top 30 most powerful lobbyists in Washington. In 2012, Akin Gump et all have already given $20,000 to Green Mountain PAC, a political action committee run by Senator Patrick Leahy–the same senator that introduced Protect IP.
According to CNN’s Fortune Tech website, before Obama used executive powers to approve United States participation in the voluntary WTO treaty, over 75 law professors addressed a letter to the President, urging him not to sign it.
Online activists have called for a month long protest of Hollywood, asking Occupy movements to participate and publicize a boycott of movies, music and theatre tickets in response to Chris Dodd’s statements on FOX. The event has been named Black March.