Bloggers say ACTA is threat to basic freedoms in Serbia


A treaty attempting to regulate the Internet and other areas due to concerns of intellectual property continues to draw criticism.

By Katica Djurovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 17/03/12


Anti-ACTA protests are gaining momentum in Serbia. [Maja Torbica]

A movement in Serbia against the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is gaining a groundswell of support, although the government denies that the treaty is being considered for adoption.

Officials admit, however, that Serbia -- an EU candidate -- will have to follow the Union's stance on ACTA and harmonise its laws with the organisation.

"It is in our interest to join [the EU], because the Serbian government already has an action plan that supports ACTA," Education and Science Ministry State Secretary Radivoje Mitrovic told SETimes.

ACTA creates international legal framework for intellectual property rights enforcement including for goods, generic medicines and Internet copyrighted materials. It criminalises downloading and sharing of music, videos and other Internet content.

Bloggers are outraged over the government's not sharing information on ACTA, and the speculate it intends to quietly adopt the treaty.

Online group Pirate Party founder Aleksandar Blagojevic said the mainstream media and politicians are manipulating the public.

"They want to put us in the position of the boy who cried wolf ... when there is no wolf. But once it arrives, it will be too late," he said.

The group leads the anti-ACTA charge in Serbia and is in the process of registering as a political party.

"ACTA runs contrary to the Serbian constitution, is harmful to free communication, to culture, science and education; it is vaguely written and thus subject to different interpretations. Therefore, it is in every way injurious to the citizens of Serbia," the group said in a statement to the government, requesting it abandon ACTA.

Ivan Vukovic argued that "open" Internet technologies -- such as Wikipedia -- have fundamentally changed the world of information, and must be defended at the polls. The goal, he said, is to inform the people about such documents and gather more people to protest. "We are voters and the governments will have to listen to us."

Given the public outrage directly preceding elections, ACTA may likely be used as a medium to attract online communities' voters in a close race, according to Constricoria.

"I doubt they really support anti-ACTA positions, but this is the time of the election campaigns when every adult and vote are valued. It is sad these same people are not equally important when the elections end. I sincerely hope the people will realise that we, the citizens, give power."

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The state must not be allowed to encroach on citizens' privacy, Smilodon Fatalis said, noting that other ways must be found to protect copyrighted material. "Imposing the treaty is particularly devastating to developing countries ... They can not afford books but their educational institutions can provide Internet for free," he said.

Ariel Ultra argued the economy will also be negatively affected as no one gains from ACTA. "Startup projects will be discouraged because they could accidently use some protected elements in their work, and thus, end up in prison or face huge fines."

The biggest problem, Dejan said, is that some laws are vague. Being an international document, ACTA must be in accordance with the 1969 Vienna Convention, which stipulates if one article is unclear, all the documents used in its preparation are subject to interpretation.

"The documents used to create ACTA are not available to the public because it was prepared behind closed doors. That means it will not be possible to know exactly in which way to interpret disputed or unclear parts during the adoption. Countries will be left to interpret the document."

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