Germany seeks to appease its public with ACTA retreat

Germany is carefully pulling back from the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which has been worrying free web advocates all over the world. 

Touted as a bill designed to stamp out counterfit goods imports, ACTA has worrying implications for online liberty. Germany was expected to sign the bill but in the wake of increasing flak from the public, the country’s government doesn’t want to appear quite so enthusiastic.

Germany’s home office hasn’t outright decided against the bill, but will instead delay its decision until the EU makes up its mind in June. ZDNet UK’s Berlin correspondent, David Meyer, reports that signing ACTA has turned into a “complicated discussion”, adding that the “German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, of the FDP has decided to withdraw the formal signing of ACTA”. Nevertheless, this does not mean Germany has changed its mind and a decision will be made at a later date.

In Eastern Europe, public scrutiny has put pressure on governments to delay ratification. Understanding the political suicide of openly supporting ACTA has seen politicians claim they are for an open web and wouldn’t sign away the rights of their citizens. 

ACTA is particularly worrying because it’s a global treaty, discussed and penned by governments behind closed doors with very little transparency. 

Meanwhile, in the UK, business secretary Mark Prisk announced in the house of commons that discussing web blocking measures would be happening “imminently” and was welcoming proposals. Since, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has denied Prisk’s announcement in the Commons, saying that measures to block the web are unneccessary – because ISPs already can. 

Increasingly, the world is waking up to how much it is under the thumb of Big Content and Hollywood. The increasing calls for web censorship mirror the bully-boy actions of the United States in forcing an extradition of British citizen Richard O’Dwyer through to its shores, for the heinous crime of linking to copyrighted content. Sweden, too, has been heavily leant on by the USA to harshly deal with the founders of torrent website, The Pirate Bay. 

Further protests against ACTA have been organised for this Saturday, all over Europe. Fight for the Future has compiled a handy map of every one of them. Here in London, the protest will begin at 2pm, outside the British Music House.

Whether or not easing away from supporting ACTA will prove a populist smokescreen remains to be seen, but burying bad news is not so easy when the entirety of the web is angry and has its eyes wide open.