During the past weeks I have been asked over and over again for my opinion on the subject of ACTA or – as the full name goes – the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Every time I replied that I wasn’t going to talk to people who hadn’t read it. Because if we think about it, how many people have? I mean all of it and not some quoted parts? I’d guess not more than 10%. Still all those protests in the Net and attacks on official websites, as well as street rallies with Guy Fawkes’ masks (some British history included – yupi!) managed to force the government to talk to the people, spreading the wave  of disagreement all overEurope.

I came across an idea that Poles, having such a terrible history, are in a way more sensitive towards the attempts of taking their freedom away.  Perhaps that’s what ACTA really is about? Maybe while fighting it we protect our independence in the Net? And actually not only in the net… Did you know that parties of the agreement MAY exclude from the application of the law “small quantities of goods of non-commercial nature contained in travelers’ personal luggage”? And what if the party of the agreement (meaning Polish government in this case) doesn’t exclude it? Could I be found guilty of possessing a used 8-year-old Esprit fake bought at a Turkish market?

                Reading the agreement made me realize two things. Firstly, ACTA itself is a measure against “cases of willful trademark counterfeiting or copyright or related rights piracy on a commercial scale”. And only that. It’s quite unlikely that one gets arrested basing on ACTA, unless earning illegal money.

Secondly,  a lot of it is expressed in shall’s and may’s instead of proper rules. What is more, a “reasonable time” is mentioned a few times (can anybody explain what a reasonable time is? Is it a week? A month? A year?). Generally speaking it is as unspecific as it can only be. Most of the regulations depend on the national law, which stays more important than ACTA itself. The question is how much we can rely on Polish law and the Polish government to secure our future. What will be more important for the political parties: our well-being or the election results? The case with ACTA only proved that most people usually support those who shout the loudest.

But then again there are authors whose intellectual property is not always respected. Films and CDs are illegally copied all the time and sold for 10% of its value (though it must be said that the price of the original is definitely not acceptable and tends to be higher inPolandthan for example in theUK). Don’t the artists have the right to earn money for what they did? Singer Zbigniew Hołdys was one of the bravest, when he publicly stated his support for ACTA. Result? He took his page off Facebook due to the amount of verbal aggression he had to face. Sometimes being for is braver than being against…

                My opinion? I’ve got very mixed feelings. Though while reading the agreement I couldn’t find much I was definitely against, I don’t approve of its imprecision. I suppose that if we have our laws which are always more important, we don’t need more, do we? However maybe it would be good to promote international cooperation? Like this we could unify our laws globally. Would it be better for us? Maybe those robbed of intellectual property should have clear rules how to fight for their rights and money? Still, can’t they do at present? Copying trademarks has been a crime for ages, hasn’t it?


And what do you think?


Katarzyna Zúñiga