Not many people have anticipated that ACTA, the “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement” would cause so much discussion, protest and excitement when it was discussed last year. Even less people have foreseen that the protest movement against this trade agreement would become so powerful and impressive that it blew away the plans, driving the members of European Parliament to vote the draft down with an overwhelming majority.
It was the first time that the EU Parliaments used its new power that had been part of the “Lisbon Treaty,” and immediately the (until then) powerful European Commission proved to be a bad loser, putting all the blame on the mass level protest on social networks and lamenting about the hostility towards the treaty.
What had happened? Only weeks before the ACTA protests started, the law drafts for SOPA (Online Piracy Act) and PIPA, the Protect IP Act, evoked huge protests in the United States. The Wikipedia website had only shown the slogan "Imagine a world without free knowledge", thousands of other websites were switched off as well, protesting against regulations that would allow the shut down of websites with assumed protected content.
The success of the American protests fuelled the European resistance and led to more attention for ACTA, an agreement that had already been signed by by Canada, Japan, Australia, Morocco, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, the USA and 22 of the 29 EU-member states. From Poland, the “No for ACTA” Movement spread all over Europe. Thousands of EU citizens, among them many who did not take part in political actions until then, took part in street demonstrations and demanded the rejection of ACTA by emails and phone calls to MEPs. 2.8 million citizens signed a petition to the EU Parliament, urging to reject the agreement. The protest on ACTA skipped from the internet to the streets and finally even into the European Parliament: the seemingly inevitable support for ACTA began to crumble, and the draft was voted down.
Of course it was not a coincidence that it was the issue of Internet freedom that mobilized the masses beyond national borders with significant help of social media. Internet-lovers and nerds knew how to use it for mobilization. As luck would have it, MEPs were caught off guard as they didn’t expect this wave of protest against a draft of minor importance. It was widely underestimated that ACTA had become a symbol for Internet freedom.
So this time, protest has worked and the reactions were enthusiastic, some even asking to send flowers of gratitude to Parliament members.
But as you know, fairy tales don't happen too often. So I'm sure, the Pro ACTA lobby will create a new name and start once again...