Protest drags down Europe’s SOPA

Hollywood heads for another defeat as the online world rejects an anti-counterfeiting proposal

Topics: Internet Culture, Stop Online Piracy Act, Editor's Picks,

Protest drags down Europe's SOPAInternet activists protest against the international copyright agreement knon as ACTA, (Credit: AP)

“I will not take part in this masquerade,” wrote the European Union’s special rapporteur for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, as he tendered his resignation last month. Since then, opposition to the international pact on so-called intellectual property has swelled. The popular fervor that thwarted the Stop Online Piracy Act in the United States has gone global.

Thousands marched in the streets of Europe last weekend, with protests reported in Budapest, Paris, Prague, Vilnius, Transylvania and beyond. Bulgaria has pulled out of the process of signing ACTA, as the agreement is known. Latvia has called for greater consultation. Poland has suspended its involvement. And Germany is holding off, as are the Czech and Slovak governments.  Hollywood had expected a neat and tidy ending to the years-long negotiation of a new global copyright regime. What it has gotten is something as complex as a Fellini film.

How did we get here? In 2007, the United States, along with Japan, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Korea and the 27 EU member countries began, in near total secret, to work out a policy on piracy and bootlegging that would stand separate from existing international trade bodies. The hope was to synchronize enforcement against counterfeit goods, from knockoff Viagra to black-market electronics to faux Nike sneakers.

But as the world has gotten a peek at ACTA over the years, it’s how the agreement would govern the Internet that has gotten the most attention. The agreement has raised concerns that travelers will have their laptops and MP3 players searched at border crossings for illicit copies of movies or music, or that Internet service providers will be forced to crack down on customers suspected of using their bandwidth to trade files.



“I don’t know where it comes from and how it originated,” said Lithuania’s justice minister, “but I don’t like that this treaty was signed skillfully avoiding discussions in the European Union and Lithuania.”

In real part, where it has come from is Hollywood, as well as the movie industry’s baby brother, the U.S. recording industry. Over the years, those industries have pursued two tactics in their copyright crackdown, one local, one global. Domestically, the Motion Picture Association of America has pushed SOPA and its companion, the Protect IP Act. Globally, there is ACTA. That international agreement could get done on the world stage not only what MPAA has achieved in Washington, but some of what it hasn’t been able to push through in the United States

Both at home and abroad, critics have argued that Hollywood’s vision of an Internet — one where it is empowered to hunt down violators — cares far more about protecting copyright than it does about protecting the public’s ability to freely associate and communicate online. But as unsettling as that might sound to those of us in the United States, it can be downright terrifying in places where fears of totalitarianism and surveillance are fresh and real. Culture doesn’t always translate, on-screen or off. Secretive cross-border agreements hit the ear differently in Vilnius, or Berlin, or Warsaw. Add to that the fact that the Internet is seen as a refuge, a place where the people stand a chance of countering the shadowy ways of government, and the resistance to ACTA we’re seeing in Europe isn’t surprising.

ACTA’s negotiators, for their part, reject the way that the agreement has been framed. Existing trade agreements like the World Trade Organization’s TRIPS agreement pre-date the Internet, they point out. Karel De Gucht, the European Commissioner for Trade, insists that ACTA’s real target is “large-scale illegal activity, often pursued by criminal organizations.”

But, as with SOPA and PIPA, the issue here isn’t just the substance of the policy. It’s who was writing it, and how they were doing it. For a long while, the little that was known about the drafting process came through a WikiLeaks leak. In that vacuum of information, the focus turned to what looked for all the world like Hollywood’s hijacking of what may well be a necessary global conversation about counterfeit goods.

“Unfortunately for these guys,” wrote Public Knowledge’s Harold Feld, “whenever there is an international trade agreement negotiation, Hollywood jumps in, takes over, and starts driving the crazy train off a cliff by demanding all kinds of nonesense [sic] in the name of ‘stopping piracy.’”

If ACTA is SOPA and PIPA writ international (and it is, in spirit if not in enforcement mechanisms), then what is fascinating to notice here is how the catalyzed reaction against ACTA across Europe mirrored that inter-government agreement: It has been a networked response. Surely, there have been major players. The hacker collective Anonymous has played a role. So has the Pirate Party, a tech-minded political party that started in Sweden and has spread across Europe. But there are millions more individuals who have made themselves heard. Anti-ACTA sentiment has spread nearly virally across the continent.

The Internet is beginning to level the political playing field. The Motion Picture Association of America boasts offices in 30 countries around the globe. That has long been to its considerable advantage. But, as with SOPA and PIPA, Hollywood’s political arm is finding that the kids and not-so-young people rallying online and in the streets are proving to be, in the aggregate, at least, formidable foes.

And each of those rallies, each public demonstration — in Budapest or Prague or New York City – over a copyright bill makes it harder to believe Hollywood’s long-told tale: that the only ones who don’t want their copyright regime are hardcore digital pirates driven by a desire to get music and movies for free. It’s getting difficult to ignore the fact that this particular story might be a little more complicated than that. There’s more to the free flow of online information than piracy. That much this winter’s wired political protests have made plain.

Nancy Scola is a New York City-based political writer whose work has appeared in the American Prospect, the Atlantic, Columbia Journalism Review, New York Magazine and Salon. On Twitter, she's @nancyscola.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>