Tens of thousands demonstrated against ACTA in icy European streets


Despite icy temperatures, tens of thousands of people have demonstrated across Europe against the planned international copyright agreement, ACTA. In Germany alone, one of the main drivers, the Pirates Party, reported 100,000 protesters. The anti-product piracy pact is supposed to improve the protection of intellectual property but critics claim its real aim is censorship of the Internet.

The EU Commission has negotiated the treaty with other countries such as the USA and Japan. For it to go into force in the EU, all its 27 members countries have to ratify it. On Friday the German government made the surprise announcement that it did not plan to sign for now.


A spokesman for the Pirate Party, which played a large part in organising the protests in 55 German towns, said on Saturday evening that participant numbers had “far exceeded” expectations.


He said 20,000 took to the streets in Munich, police said 16,000. The party said 10,000 took part in both Berlin and Stuttgart, 7,000 in Düsseldorf and 6,000 in Frankfurt on Main.


The protests were also supported by the Attac network which opposes globalisation as well as The Greens and The Left political parties. Activists of the Internet group Anonymus and the Chaos Computer Club also took part. Greens leader Claudia Roth called the protests "a thunderous signal against ACTA and for lively democracy in the Internet age”.

Politicians of the opposition Social Democratic Party and the government-sharing Free Democratic Party have also distanced themselves from the deal. The foreign office had stated on Friday that no final decision had yet been taken about signing. “Possible need for discussion” would be dealt with first, it said.

A member of the European Parliament, Daniel Caspary of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, called in a radio interview for an open parliamentary examination of the agreement. He himself could not recognise any curbs on freedom of the Internet or opinion in the text, he said.

The Federation of German Industry said ACTA would make an important contribution to protection of German innovations in international trade.

Austrian police said 6,000 people demonstrated against ACTA in that country, half of them in the capital, Vienna. Media reported 3,000 in the streets in the Czech Republic, 2,000 marching through Prague. In the Estonian capital Tallinn 2,500 protested, in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius it was 600. In Poland on Saturday only about 100 people demonstrated against ACTA, but in that country thousands already demonstrated in the streets at the end of January and earlier this month.