European Commission Slip Reveals Censorship In ACTA

In an inadvertent slip, the European Commission reveals that ACTA will indeed bring censorship to the Internet. As usual, they say this in the calmest soothing tone of voice.

The European Commission, which is sort of the Administration in the EU, published a rebuttal to “rumors on the net about ACTA” and tries to set the record straight. Note the two first points: “ACTA ensures people everywhere can continue to share non-pirated material and information on the web. ACTA does not restrict freedom of the internet. ACTA will not censor or shut down websites.”

There is one word on their web page that stands out and reveals so much more about the nature of ACTA:

“Non-pirated”. Everybody will be free to share “non-pirated” material. All of a sudden, there is a qualifier  to what information we are able to share on the net; this qualifier has never been there before. We have always been able to send whatever we like, and possibly answer for it afterwards.

This is very, very serious. For what it says here is that the net will only be usable for government-approved communications; the government takes itself the right to determine what the net is usable for and what it isn’t usable for. To 250 million Europeans who share culture and don’t see anything wrong with defying an immoral monopoly, this is an arrogant slap in the face, but it’s more  than that and worse  than that. Any qualifier  to what can be communicated — “non-pirated” in this case — always means “government-approved”, that only governmentally approved communications may take place.

And this is serious for the deepest of democratic reasons: Any communications technology must be compatible with dissent.

At the same time as the government takes itself the right to determine what can be communicated and what cannot, a communications technology stops being compatible with dissent.

Now, the prudent question here would be if it isn’t true that some information has never been free to share, and that you can get prosecuted for doing so? This would be a very relevant observation.

There are many things you’re not allowed to share in terms of information. Military secrets, medical journals, libel/slander, ongoing criminal investigations, just to name a few. All of these have always been possible to share on the net, but if caught doing so, you can be hauled off to court for it. After the fact.  The postal service has always still been usable  to share this information.

And yet, the one single thing listed as impossible to share over the net is violations of the copyright monopoly. If the Commission really was referring to things that you were legally  unable to share, you’d expect military secrets to come first, followed by governmental hush-hushy documents. But no.

This is an obvious slip trying to calm people into saying that everything will be as before, but the forced factual correctness of it reveals that we are indeed talking about censorship.

Another objection here would be that the language requiring ISPs to police the net was taken out of ACTA. That is… not quite so. The specific phrase requiring that was taken out in one revision, yes. But in the same revision, the same thing was re-inserted in another place. Specifically, this text was inserted:

Desiring to promote cooperation between service providers and rights holders to address relevant infringements in the digital environment;

It looks fairly innocent, like most legal text where you don’t have the full context. To fully appreciate the impact of this text, one needs to know the background leading up to it and the negotiations. Hax writes a bit about it here (in Swedish). The gist of it is that it’s enforcement of extrajudicial censorship, plain and simple, through threats of third-party liability.

UPDATE – seeing that this story is climbing on Reddit, and now hitting frontpage, I’m inserting the fuller explanation from the summary of today’s anti-ACTA rallies:

…there was a very clear recurring theme among the Members of European Parliament speaking, MEPs from three different parties. They all told the story of how software patents had been defeated in Europe, followed by the crucial “amendment 138” in the Telecoms Package, which aimed to shut people off en masse from the Net. Well, thanks to diligent activists and people on the inside, we managed to get as strong safeguards in place as possible against shutting people off. But the monopoly lobbyists never quit. Now they’re at it again, this time saying that if authorities can’t shut people off en masse due to that “amendment 138”, maybe they can get private corporations – the ISPs – to do it instead through third-party liability forcing certain terms of service and wiretapping, shutting people off outside due process of law at the copyright industry’s fingerpointing as well as trying for live, realtime censorship. Hence, ACTA.

(original article continues)

ACTA will bring censorship. Extrajudicial censorship. At the request of a bloody entertainment  industry. That is shameful. 

Tomorrow, Saturday February 4, large-scale rallies against ACTA take place. I will be at the rally in Stockholm, Sweden at Plattan at noon.

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. Gridlock

    It has become trend in our society that economical crimes is punished just as much if not harder then bodily crimes.

    If short i can stab you or murder you and at most i will get a slap on the wrist maybe a few years in prison, but if i dare to steal your wallet NOW shit hits the fan and i will almost get life in imprisonment because of it.

    Unless of course i´m part of the MAFIAA in that chase its just shaken of as momentarily bad laps in judgment nothing to get upset about.
    We should all just forget it and continue as if nothing had ever happened.

    1. Correction

      I’m fairly sure murder gets a harsher sentence than the theft of a wallet.

      1. Anonymous

        Kill Michael Jackson get 4 years in prison DL a MJ song get 5 years in prison.

        1. Correction

          The Doc didn’t get done for murder, it was manslaughter and I’d be surprised if anyone got five years for downloading a song by Michael Jackson.

      2. Correct Correction

        “If you dare to download a copyrighted song of Michael Jackson, you risk a 5-year prison term, which is more than the sentence “granted” to the doctor who killed him.”

  2. Estonian

    “It looks fairly innocent, like most legal text where you doesn’t[!] have the full context.”

    I’m not an English expert, but I think it should be: “…where you don’t have the full context.”

    Thanks for the article though, and good luck for tomorrow 🙂

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thanks! Cut and paste error. Fixing.

  3. anonymous

    I couldn’t help to enter “Facts about ACTA that are actually true.” in that “What where you looking for?” text box on their website.

  4. Protestera mot ACTA // Skivad lime

    […] om ACTA: HAX, Falkvinge, Troberg, HAX (igen), Juristen, Juristen (igen). Se även Miljöpartiets ACTA-blogg som är […]

  5. Nevermind

    […]We have always been able to send whatever we like, and possibly answer for it afterwards.[…]

    Well, mostly true, but… Should I silently watch when someone is (clearly) trying to steal something from somebody, instead of stopping him? According to your logic, he has to answer for theft only afterwards (if we can catch him, of course) 🙂

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Why are you bringing theft into this? We are discussing the copyright monopoly, and there’s even a US Supreme Court decision that violations of the copyright monopoly is not theft in any way, shape or form.

      1. Nevermind

        Don’t get me wrong, but… There are some things which should not be published, or they can make real evil. In such cases, it is better to prevent rather than to cure.

        Probably, “pirated content” is not this kind of things (and, actually, I am against ACTA in its current form), but responsibility “afterwards” is weak excuse for those who could be victimized by disclosure.

        So, either – no censorship and huge risk, or censorship and still huge risk – but another kind…

        PS: Definitely, I am for freedom. But if, and only if, *everyone* will know that his freedom stops right before point where mine (or someone else) starts. Unfortunately, we are not in a perfect world 🙂

        1. The Oncoming Storm

          If information is not free, people are not free. Are you a person? Have you read ANY history book? The world isn’t perfect? Well at least we’re fucking TRYING. I don’t want my future family to grow up in a world where I am shamed for not doing my part to secure their freedom and rights. Disagree? Then I don’t care what your answer is. It falls on ears as deaf as yours (sorry to use “you” as a larger subset of a more silent and ignorant population, feel free to call me out on that as long as you use the whole quote.)

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  6. Falkvinge on ACTA Censorship

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  8. Guy Who Knows Everything

    It seems a bit of a jump. Non-pirated doesn’t equate to “government approved”. “Material that someone else doesn’t own exclusive rights to share” might be a better definition. Which seems fair enough. The definition of the term non-pirated could however be abused, so it’s one to watch out for.

    Also, the real worry is that the kind of structure that would have to be put in place to stop the sharing of pirated material would give whoever controlled it a Godly amount of power over the net. But then we allow such sirvaillance in the real world.

    What really feels wrong about this is that we – the majority – aren’t calling for it. So what the hell happened to democracy? But then it’s common sense to think someone would do anything for a million quid. And politicians are just human beings.


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  9. The Minority user

    I never asked the US or any other government to put their enforcement into the web or net which ever you choose to call it, and my expectation is they dang well better not, the reality is that the governments think they are so smart, when what they are doing is causing a HUGE generation of users, hackers, kids etc to get angry at them, and the retaliation will be like in WWII where they awaken a sleeping giant and find they don’t have the computer power or savvy they thought they had as they are attacked so much they will lose everything in their own systems. So I guess we are ready for the children of today to lead us unto the future.

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  10. Daire McNab

    Why the f**k should pirated material be allowed to be distributed? Next you’ll be protesting at the illegality of trafficking heroin. Morons.

  11. Today in Censorship February 7, 2012 | Censorship Report

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  12. […] van de Europese Commissie.Rick Falkvinge, oprichter van de Zweedse en eerste Piratenpartij  legt uit waarom ACTA wel degelijk tot censuur leidt. Aanstaande zaterdag vinden er wereldwijd weer protesten plaats tegen ACTA, ook in Amsterdam 9 […]

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    […] presionado para su aprobación como si su vida dependiera de ello?”. Además Falkvinge advierte sobre los peligros de censura, en especial a partir de la aclaración (la negrita es mía) en el Fact Sheet de ACTA, que afirma […]

  15. FightForYourRights

    I think we have to look at the bigger picture here. They can and they will censor our Freedom of speech on the internet once ACTA is passed. Global communications will be censored, Personal opinions that are in disagreement with their Government’s own will be censored.

    quote from Wikipedia on ACTA “An MPAA representative, in a 2010 private ACTA meeting in Mexico, told negotiators that “Bring in a censoring firewall to block piracy and you can use it to shut off sites that embarrass your government, like Wikileaks.”

    Latest news “European Commission Blames Social Networks For ACTA Failure”
    Pretty soon all social networks will be censored ie Facebook.

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