Act Now on ACTA

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One of the things that has amazed me recently is the power of the letter – or, more specifically, the power of the letter when sent to an MP or MEP. Naively, I would have expected a deafening silence from these exalted beings in receipt of my ever so 'umble communications, but by and large they are astonishingly quick to respond, often with personal replies. From this I draw an important lesson: that it is always worth writing to your Mps/MEPs about things that matter to you.

Against that background, over the next few weeks, I aim to present a few worthy causes to readers of this blog that they might like to take up with representatives. Remember, finding the latter – and sending stuff to them – is trivially easy thanks to the wonders of the WriteToThem site, so there's no excuse for not joining in.

The first important matter I'd like to bring to your attention is the dreaded Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). I've written elsewhere about the threat that this represents to free software, and there's more of the same from the Free Sofware Foundation here. What make ACTA so egregious is the fact that it is being negotiated - *now* - behind closed doors, so that you and I can't even find out what exactly it will contain; instead, apparently, we must just meekly wait and accept.

Well, maybe not: here's a letter I've sent to my MEPs on the subject. Please feel free to adapt its ideas for your own missives. But I would ask you not to copy it verbatim because it dilutes the message, and makes it look like a tiresome chain letter that's being sent around. In my (limited) experience, the more personal we can make these things, the more effective they are.

I am writing to you in connection with the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that is currently being negotiated by the United States and the European Commission, as well as Japan, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Korea, Mexico and New Zealand.

As you know, these negotiations have been conducted entirely behind closed doors, which means that there has been no public discussion of what the treaty will contain. However a document available from WikiLeaks (http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Proposed_US_ACTA_multi-lateral_intellectual_property_trade_agreement_(2007)) at http://file.sunshinepress.org:54445/acta-proposal-2007.pdf indicates that the scope of the proposed treaty is extremely broad, and will have a substantial impact on ordinary users of the Internet in the UK and Europe.

The non-transparent way in which negotiations are being conducted seems extraordinary in this day and age of consultation and participation, and I wondered what your views on this were, and what oversight you and your colleagues may be able to bring in order to create some semblance of democracy in the writing of this treaty.

Ladies and gentleman, start your word processors....

Update: To confirm my point, I've *already* - within less than 10 minutes - had a reply from one of my MEPs: kudos to Dr Syed Kamall....

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