It’s starting to feel like someone declared war on Internet piracy earlier this year while we were busy reading Reddit. But while the battle over Internet laws continues, the discussion sparked by anti-piracy legislation earlier this year seems to have disappeared.
The fight now centers on ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that the European Union signed in January. This still-murky law, most of which was crafted quietly behind closed doors, has potential to threaten those who make the Internet their livelihood. So where are the Internet masses who came out in full force, blocking out websites and amassing in person in protest of the twin anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA?
As it turns out, the battle may not be ours. The latest roadblocks to ACTA in Europe likely means most of the anti-ACTA heavy lifting won’t happen on this side of the Atlantic, said Andrew Rasiej, an entrepreneur and the chairman of the New York Tech Meetup who was instrumental in organizing protests in New York City against SOPA and PIPA.
A suspension of the law by the European Court of Justice has put the yet-to-be ratified and controversial multi-national agreement on hold until it can be determined whether or not it violates fundamental EU rights.
If ACTA stalls in Europe, it doesn’t make sense to protest it here, Mr. Rasiej said in an email. “The battle over ACTA, as a threat to open architecture of the Internet is now being waged in other places, most notably Europe, where parliamentary approval is required for implementation,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean the Internet bloc can happily go back to its business. If anything, SOPA and PIPA should have been a wake-up call: nerds, the law applies to you too.
Internet activists should be concerned with more than just the challenges of combating piracy while maintaining free expression, or learning how to secure the ever changing digital infrastructure the world has come to rely upon, Mr. Rasiej said. Elected officials still don’t seem to “get it” when it comes to making laws that impact technology. While Congress now knows (we hope) that the Internet is not a series of tubes, legislators still have a long way to go. “Politicians don’t know the difference between a server and a waiter,” Mr. Rasiej said. “Imagine a future where our senators are explaining ACTA to us, not us explaining ACTA to them.”