Tens of thousands of protesters took part in rallies across Europe against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which many feel will give too much power to Big Content to censor the web.
In Bulgaria, where the entire economy would collapse because no one can afford western prices for software, more than 4,000 young people assembled in Sofia to protest. It is worthwhile pointing out that young people in Sofia do not normally do protests.
The fear is that downloading movies and music might lead to prison sentences if ACTA is ratified. Other concerns are that exchanging material on the internet may become a crime and critics say the accord will allow for massive online surveillance.
According to Reuters, more than 25,000 demonstrators braved freezing temperatures in German cities to march against the ACTA. There were also protests in Warsaw, Prague, Slovakia, Bucharest, Vilnius, Paris, Brussels, Dublin and London.
Opposition to ACTA in Eastern Europe is especially strong because it reminds many of the Big Brother-style surveillance used by Stalinist regimes. After all, they didn’t get rid of Stalin to hand over their freedom to movie studio executives.
Big Content has been hitting the poor former Eastern Bloc countries with similar prices to western countries, when the average salary in Bulgaria is about $300 a month. Illegal downloading and piracy has filled the gap with most companies running on hot copies of Windows.
Big Content might point out that this makes them pirates, the protesters would point out that they need the government to step in and force the music and film industry to be more reasonable, rather than just enforcing their ridiculous pricing with an iron rod.
The protests would have been more dramatic had they not been carried out in the middle of one of the coldest winters. You have to be really committed to show up in in central Berlin where temperatures were -10 Celsius.
Protesting seems to be having some effect. Germany’s foreign ministry has already said it will hold off on signing, but has not committed either way.