The Only Thing You Need To Know About ACTA

The ACTA awareness and debate has finally heated up. But in such a huge, convoluted and deliberately complex document, how can you determine for yourself whether it’s good or bad? It turns out that there’s a very straightforward way to tell.

The easiest way to determine the nature of ACTA comes not from the document itself, but from the behavior of the people advocating it.

Everybody involved in pushing and rushing through this agreement have insisted that it will mean no changes at all, won’t require any changes to law (or possibly minimal ones to trademark law, as in Sweden), and overall, insist that it’s no big deal.

At the same time, these players are throwing all their weight behind its passage. The key question that results stands out like a sore thumb:

If ACTA doesn’t change anything, why are they pushing for its passage as if their life depended on it?

And that contradiction, in itself, is enough to de-mask the entire ACTA and what it stands for. It was negotiated in secret by the copyright industry and other monopolists. Even now, as lawmakers come to a vote, they are not allowed to understand what the document says – for it defines many new terms, that are only understandable in terms of the negotiation protocols. But those are secret.

If the copyright industry is pushing for its life for something to pass, while pretending it’s not a change at all, and preventing lawmakers from understanding the concepts defined, what do you think it contains?

This is the industry that thinks it’s reasonable for legislators to give them the power to kill a legal competitor in a foreign country by killing their income, website, and advertising at the pointing of a finger.

This is the industry that thinks it’s reasonable that they should be legislated to the top of search results, and their free competitors downranked by law.

This is the industry that demands under threat of law – a private industry – to wiretap an entire population, just to see if they do something that industry doesn’t like, and if so, censor that population’s communications at will.

This is the industry that argues that citizens should be actively prevented from exercising their fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech and expression, if that may possibly interfere with that industry’s business.

This is the industry that thinks it’s reasonable to sue a small Karaoke manufacturer for 1.2 billion dollars. Oh, and a student for over 4 million. Oh, and a dead grandmother.

This is the industry that uses child pornography as a legal ram to pave the way for their own censorship, in ways that actually hurt children and promote child abuse.

This is the industry that planted rootkits on people’s music CDs and took complete control of their computers, millions of them – including web cameras, microphones, files on the hard drive, everything. They forced their way into people’s homes and got eyes and ears there.

This is the industry that, once you think they’ve sunk as low as morally and humanly possible, keeps coming up with new creative ways to surprise you.

If this industry wants this legislative package so incredibly badly that they’re fighting for their life to get it, while pretending it’s no big deal, all while not even telling lawmakers what it is, that should be enough for anybody to realize it’s a bag of the darkest bloody horrors. Expect it to codify the examples above. And more. Expect it to be much, much worse than SOPA.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. kozzzk

    Mr. Falkvinge, you should have been yesterday in Warsaw, in Krakow two days ago or in Warsaw again 4 days ago – the view surely would cheer you up 😉

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      I would probably have both needed and loved that.

  2. Matt

    I posted this on your facebook but it occured to me that you might not actually check the comments on that page so i’ll repost it here.

    I have to say Rick, I find your articles to be so well written that i can read them in one go. Usually i get bored of people’s blog posts and articles that i usually skim through them or read it in bits. However every article of yours that i have read has been extremely easily and enjoyable to read.
    Please keep it going, your writing is fantastic.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thank you. I don’t hear this a lot, but when I do, it means the world to me.


      1. Mind

        You don’t hear it a lot? You should, you are fantastic. Keep it up!

        1. Travis McCrea

          I think he was referencing the meme “I don’t always xxxx but when I do YYYY”

          He is a pretty awesome dude.

  3. Nils Ververs Lübke

    Your lucid writing, and gloves off attitude is so damn refreshing. Especially your article on why anyone should care about the MPAA, the RIAA and their profit margins made me wake up. You juxtapose these issues in such a way that the inherent absurdities become very clear indeed. Thanks 🙂

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thank you for telling me! It means very, very much to me to get this kind of appreciation.


  4. anonymous

    Indeed, ACTA is much worse than SOPA and PIPA. Where SOPA and PIPA are only limited to online activity, ACTA also tries to regulate offline activities. The companies behind ACTA have already pushed through legislation that allows them to make boatloads of money, which means that the goal of ACTA is not self preservation or monetary gain. Which, in my opinion, leaves only one option left: ACTA is a coup d’état. The goal of ACTA is world domination.

  5. […] ”ACTA changes nothing” has become favorite mantra of those who want to push the agreement through at any cost. This in itself is of course a strong signal that there is something very suspect about the whole issue. If ACTA really changes nothing, why are they spending so much effort on getting it through? […]

    1. Robert

      Or even if ACTA changes nothing, why do they need it the first place

      “changes nothing” means that the law will remain the exact same it was before.

      Have they just gotten lazy with lying or do they actually think people are that stupid to buy their crap?

  6. manen

    none of the -leaks site got ahold of the documents?

  7. Ratownik

    Twitter censorship posts on it sites to be invisible at some countries.
    ACTA make bypassing (like proxy) illegal
    So I’d like to quote Admiral Ackbar “It’s trap”

  8. SCO

    Will you be going to the Anti-Acta protests in Gothenburg on the 4th?

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      I will be at the same in Stockholm.

  9. Ratownik

    Maybe short information campaign about ACTA? Idea is to just post text below everywhere you can.

    You can’t see this comment because I decided it is bad for you. I’d like to inform you that bypassing my blackout is against ACTA. If you still try do it I’ll get your data from your ISP thanks to ACTA.

  10. […] preparar à porta fechada, nos EUA levou com o selo "National Security", leiam este curto artigo de Falkvinge, o fundador do primeiro Partido Pirata. The easiest way to determine the nature of ACTA comes not […]

  11. Herbert

    Hello Mr. Falkvinge,

    I’d like to translate your article into german, is this OK with you? I’d post it on facebook for friends
    to read.
    Also thanks for this insightful article.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Of course! You would honor me by translating and spreading anything I write.

      Copy and seed!


      PS: Do send me a link once it’s up and I’ll link to your translation from this article (like it’s currently linking to swarm translations in Russian and French).

  12. Well played, corporations, well played… | Blog de la Kroitus

    […] ten yra sakoma, tai maždaug kad „beveik jokių pokyčių šalių teisėje nereiks“. Falkvinge gerai parašė, tai aš pats […]

  13. But Me

    Might missed. But the part of ACTA that says government may force IPS to report what their customers do, where is it, an how does it go? “Take action” if crime take place? Exist in swedish? and/or languages concerned?

  14. Peter

    And here is the czech translation:

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thanks, link added!

  15. […] Dit is een vertaling van The only thing you need to know about ACTA, door Rick Falkvinge (@Falkvinge), oprichter van de Piratenpartij […]

  16. Mind

    Anyone know what the ACTA stance on debuggers and other reversing tools are?

  17. johan

    So the next siege on the swedish parlament will be when they try and steam roll this trough ?

    Hope you be there rick with the mic like it was with fra and so on

  18. anonymous

    new googles privacy will be effective 1 march 2012, they will record and log everything about you…more than ever… phone calls and sms included…you can read their policy and you can also delete your gmail and google account.

    stay safe.

    freedom is now.

    1. Chris

      As far as I’m aware googles private policy revision takes all of their many policies for each of their products and condenses them into one. Its nowhere near as bad as you are stating, and since Android is fully open source its pretty simple to find out if they are intact monitoring your phone.

  19. […] à porta fechada, nos EUA levou com o selo “National Security”, leiam este curto artigo de Falkvinge, o fundador do primeiro Partido Pirata. The easiest way to determine the nature of ACTA comes not […]

  20. Rev. Smith

    Although there is little hope left that the ACTA-agreement won’t pass, the big question is what will happen post ACTA? What will the market do? New and user friendly VPN-tunnels than what TOR is, will blossom, sure. And the ISPs will reluctantly aid the copyright monoplists and it will taken even longer to travell between two destinations, than wht it is today, so there will be less travels beteween countries. But what more can we expect?

    Or better yet, what will happen in the next 5-10 years, when our liberty has diminished and STILL people will share files with each other?

    If there is anything good in this, it will be peoples awareness of what is about to happen. And when they, the people, can see for them selves (or worse yet be victim them selves) what strong IP-rights-laws means in practise – the polls for PP will rise! PP to get many seats in the Swedish parliament will be the easy part 2018.

  21. […] The only thing you need to know about ACTA […]

  22. Acta pour les nuls | salefouineuse

    […] The only thing you need to know about ACTA […]

  23. Peach Cobbler

    Great that ACTA will stop a lot of fraudulent websites and netcriminals THAT will ensure that the internet evolves in the right way.

    1. nevermore669

      I am going to pass a law against peachy cobblery dishes. They are criminal and fraudulent dishes. I can say this with certainty because as soon as I pass my law, they will be!

  24. […] DFAT, however, continues to say “ACTA doesn’t mean any change for Australia”, but it does. It cements bad laws that DFAT allowed the US to impose on Australia via the AUSFTA, and when a belligerent industry is desperately clinging to it, something must be up. […]

  25. […] e-postivestlusel Euroopa Parlamendi liikme Rick Falkvingega juhtis ta tähelepanu, et oli üleeile praktiliselt samal teemal bloginud. Falkvinge kirjutab, et poliitikutel palutakse hääletada ACTA üle olukorras, kus mitmed ACTAs […]

  26. andrius

    all hear about ACTA is just very abstract political-style catchphrases but nothing more.
    Please specify, which clauses of ACTA:
    1. “demands … to wiretap an entire population “;
    2. allows “to sue a small Karaoke manufacturer for 1.2 billion dollars”;
    3. “hurts children and promote child abuse”.

    And how all that you are so worried about are not already included in TRIPS or WCT or WPPT or even in the EU Copyright Directive?

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Dear Andrius,

      Perhaps I was unclear. The point of my post is that the actual meaning of ACTA is still secret, since it defines many new terms. These will not be subject to interpretation by the national courts and politicans. According to the Vienna Convention, we learn that this will be subject to interpretation according to the original negotiation protocols, where the copyright industry participated in negotiations. In the same convention, we learn that the interpretations of these protocols will supersede national law.

      But these protocols are secret. Thus, there is no way of knowing what the black box contains – this black box that the copyright industry tries to have supersede national law. Rather, we must see what the people who fight for this agreement aspire to in other contexts.

      That’s where the claims above come in, which are well referenced. These are all things that the copyright industry have done or demanded.


  27. m0n5t3r

    Apparently the EC reacted to the online discussion, giving assurances that in fact nothing changes and home users won’t be affected:

    Care to dismantle their claims? 😀

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thanks, this enraged me to no end. The interesting stuff isn’t what’s there, but what’s not. I’ll write an article on this soon, maybe tomorrow.

  28. pop

    This is the road we have to follow.

    Problem is, how do we get to propose something like this in the EU when our elected reps don’t have legislative initiative? 🙁

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      That’s the road we’re already taking. The Pirate Party in Berlin just got 14% in a poll.

  29. Joop

    Rick, thank you for this concise and clear explanation. This says exactly why ACTA can not be trusted. If it were true that ACTA will change nothing, then why implement it at all? It would be useless if that were true. The scary part of ACTA is that things are unclear, especially when it comes to definitions. Without knowing what they mean, how can anyone decide to vote “yes” or “no?” So better to err on the side of caution and say “no”.

    Also good that you included the track record of the content industry where it comes to our rights. Looking at it like this, it seems incredible they have gotten away with so much already…

  30. […] ACTA become a reality. Fortunately, it’s not just me who is spreading the word. I came across an excellent explanation about why ACTA can’t be trusted right here, from the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party. This makes for excellent and scary […]

  31. ACTA – en foreløpig analyse

    […] for denne kritikken av ACTA er teksten: “The only ting you need to know about ACTA”, av Rick Falkvinge, grunnlegger av det svenske Piratpartiet. Falkvinge mener det er helt […]

  32. Why ACTA Is So Mercilessly Pursued - Falkvinge on Infopolicy

    […] recent article by Rick Falkvinge posed the question: If ACTA doesn’t change anything, why are they pushing for […]

  33. […] Falkvinge, dans un texte paru sur son blog et traduit sur le site Framablog, “La seule chose que vous devez savoir à propos […]

  34. max

    thanks dude for good post. thats really helps to understand what they will do with us!

  35. STOP ACTA - Stranica 2 - Alternativa Forum

    […]…ow-about-acta/ […]

  36. ACTA: ¿SOPA para todos o “no es lo que parece”? « gugamayer

    […] determinar la naturaleza de ACTA (si es buena o mala), no proviene del documento en sí, sino de la conducta de las personas que la apoyan“, es decir, la industria (del copyright). Por lo tanto, “hay que esperar que sea algo […]

  37. The only thing you need to know about ACTA | Libertarian Home

    […] only thing you need to know about ACTA February 21, 2012By Simon GibbsThe only thing you need to know about ACTA – […]

  38. VS aanvoerder ACTA-onderhandelingen « Blog

    […] manier om in te zien hoe slecht ACTA is, is door te kijken naar hoe voorstanders van ACTA handelen (origineel). Een andere methode is door de preambule te analyseren. In de preambule van een verdrag staan de […]

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