Support for ACTA wanes as debate heats up

Vice chair of journalists’ union retracts support after a single day while leaders of three European countries withdraw their support for the controversial anti-copyright trade agreement

The debate in Denmark over the controversial Anti Copyright Trade Agreement (ACTA) is starting to heat up after the vice chair of journalists’ union Journalistforbundet (DJ) made a retraction of his public support for the agreement after only a day.

In an article published on Monday, Lars Wenge, DJÂ’s vice chair, was quoted in a story published on the organisation’s website saying that ACTA, which Denmark signed in January, provided important regulation to fight copyright violation globally.

“We think itÂ’s a good idea,” Wenge said. “ACTA will regulate many things globally which need regulation. We also notice that the regulations donÂ’t change the way we do things in Denmark. The things that ACTA are supposed to regulate are already regulated in Denmark.”

WengeÂ’s point of view was far from unanimously held, however, and after receiving criticism from members of DJ who are opposed to ACTA he published a retraction.

“My statement yesterday in the article on is only my point of view,” Wenge wrote. ”Copyright protection is central to DJ’s fight to ensure our members better working conditions. But in the past few hours I have noticed that ACTA is far more than this. And, even though freedom of speech and copyrights can sometimes collide, DJ’s support for copyright protection should not be interpreted as a desire to stand in the way of free speech and dialogue.”

Wenge could hardly have chosen a more controversial piece of legislation to support. ACTA has been criticised by many experts for its potential to unleash internet censorship by demanding internet service providers police its customers and cut their connection if they are merely suspected of violating copyright laws.

Opponents of ACTA have also argued that it would halt the trade of life saving generic drugs as well as criminalising many ordinary acts, such as passing on recipes or publishing family videos where copyrighted material can be seen or heard.

In Denmark, ACTA has a number of supporters including the trade minister, Pia Olsen Dyhr (Socialistisk Folkeparti), who argues that agreements like ACTA are needed to fight copyright violators and protect jobs.

“The treaty extends the protection against copying and rights violation that applies in the EU to a number of the union’s important trade partners,” she wrote in Information newspaper.  Â“[Denmark] has a lot of information-intensive enterprises, which thrive on developing and designing products such as furniture and high-tech machines. These companies cannot survive without effective protection of their rights both in Denmark and outside Denmark.”

But across the world a growing campaign has been mounted against ACTA. Global activist organization Avaaz has amassed well over 2 million signatures calling for it to be scrapped, while Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have all announced they will not ratify the agreement.

Back in Denmark, Henrik Chulu, who represents the think-tank Bitbureauet, which fights for internet freedom, argued that ACTA would do more harm than good.

“ACTA is simply another example of an initiative taken by, or on behalf of, copyright lobbyists,” Chulu wrote in an op-ed published on

“Common to all of these initiatives is that they will benefit a narrow class of private interests, to the detriment of a broader and far more substantial societal good, namely the free and open internet. It is more than simply a channel for information and free speech for people in oppressed countries, but is also a motor for growth and global development.”

Chulu also questioned whether WengeÂ’s initial statement had anything to do with DJÂ’s membership of anti-piracy organisation Rettigheds Alliancen, which represents copyright holders such as musicians and artists.

Rettigheds Alliancen has proposed tackling online piracy by sending letters to households whose IP addresses show they have downloaded copyright material, explaining to them what they have done and suggesting they reconsider their behaviour.

But the organisation itself found itself in an embarrassing situation recently, when the website revealed that a computer at the law firm Johan Schlüter Advokatfirma, a member of the Rettigheds Alliance, was used to illegally download the Danish award-winning movie, “Dirch”.

The actual effect of ACTA will not be fully understood until it is implemented and currently many countries are standing by it. The European Commission even released a statement attempting to debunk 10 of the most prevailing myths about ACTA, such as that it threatens the legitimate trade in generic medicines.

Regardless of whether countries have signed the agreement or not, the European Parliament has the final say and will decide later this year whether to ratify the agreement.

Despite this, many are still concerned over its potential to limit internet freedom, and in response newspaper Information has decided to host a public hearing on February 27, while a demonstration against ACTA is being held outside parliament at 15:00 on Saturday, February 25.