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ACTA : Model debate or wasted opportunity?


  • Marcus Schröder

Summary, in English

The growing digitalization of recent decades and the ease with which we can connect to others on the web has resulted in many forms of civil activism which appear hardly conceivable without it. Ironically, one of the most profound of these manifestations has been in its defense. In 2012, a European public went online and took to the streets to demonstrate, ultimately successfully, against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). An international trade agreement intended to establish a minimum standard for copyright protection among members many feared it would facilitate online surveillance and censorship. The surrounding debate had many lasting effects yet also stands as an example of prejudiced allegations and subjective debate. This is seldom criticized because it developed the excitement of a mass movement for the short time of its existence. Almost a year later however, one has to wonder: What was actually achieved?

Utilizing a poststructuralist discourse analysis, this thesis will investigate the development, composition and impact of the ACTA debate in Europe. Following Foucault's reasoning that discourses establish facts which tend to inform subsequent decision-making processes, it will be shown that this discussion was split in focus. Its division between the specific legislative proposal and the principal of copyrights roughly corresponded to the distinction between expert and public discourses whose reciprocal influence will also be considered. Comparatively analyzing two major daily newspapers each of two major Member States (i.e. Germany and the UK) will showcase how the public discourse developed. A subsequent analysis of the expert discourse, based on a number of interviews conducted with Brussels based authorities, will chronicle this development from an institutional point of view. Based on these findings, the protests against ACTA will be critically evaluated. It will be argued that they failed to realize an existing potential to have a more profound impact beyond the rejection of the specific agreement. The point being that no viable alternatives in ACTA’s place had been suggested, thus increasing the likelihood of similar advances to reemerge in the future. Despite the justified concerns regarding the agreement, protesting alone will not automatically result in better policies. After all, effective political decision making requires effort from both sides: political experts and the public.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


  • Social Sciences


  • Foucault
  • Poststructuralism
  • ACTA
  • Discourse Analysis


  • Magdalena Gora