from the let's-put-it-out-of-its-misery dept
In the last few days, we've seen an extraordinary wave of announcements by governments in Europe, particularly its eastern part, that they would not be ratifying ACTA immediately. That sequence of events, culminating in today's news that Germany, too, would be holding off, has suddenly made lots of people sit up and take notice.
But even against that tumultuous background, few of us would have expected that two of the most serious business publications in Europe, The Economist and Financial Times, would both go much further than simply noting the problems the treaty now faces, and declare that ACTA is pretty much dead.
Under the headline "ACTA up", The Economist says: "Protests across Europe may kill an anti-piracy treaty", and points out: "Internet activists used to be dismissed as a bunch of hairy mouse-clickers with little clout. Not any more."
The Financial Times' headline is "Latest pact on internet piracy set to be derailed", and the post makes an explicit connection with SOPA and PIPA:
A controversial international trade agreement, which campaigners fear would restrict internet freedom looks likely to be delayed or scrapped, the latest in a string of measures planned to combat online piracy to falter in the face of co-ordinated protests.
It also offers some interesting thoughts on why the ACTA revolt has been so strong in eastern Europe:
The issue has stirred up deep passions there, where access to the internet is seen as one of the rewards of belonging to a democratic society. Illegal downloading is also popular, in part because those societies are poorer than those in western Europe, and in part because many content providers have made it difficult for central Europeans to buy music and films legally online.
Finally, it has a fascinating comment from David Martin, the new European Parliament rapporteur on ACTA, who took over after Kader Arif resigned in protest at the way ACTA had been negotiated. Martin says he wants to "canvas views broadly", and to get an opinion from the European Court of Justice on whether ACTA is compatible with the European Union's current laws. As result of this approach, he says:
"Realistically, if we go down this route we are looking at a vote in the spring of 2013," he warns.
The FT quotes an unnamed diplomat who suggests that this delay may "give enough time for the post-SOPA venom to clear," so that governments can quietly ratify ACTA in their national parliaments and in Brussels next year. It sounds like a clever ploy -- let protesters tire themselves out, then push through ACTA -- but on the basis of the strength of feeling that's manifested itself in Europe recently, I wouldn't bet on it working.