How-To: Build an Anti-ACTA-Campaign

During the past five months, our small german NGO Digitale Gesellschaft e.V. has been actively campaigning against ACTA. Our main goal has been to create a broad coalition of organisations and people protesting against ACTA for different arguments, to communicate the criticism against ACTA in a comprehensive way as well as to connect protests taking place online and offline. We have tried hard to keep the protests alive and thriving from February until July with a small team of people working on a voluntary base. After we won against ACTA, we have reviewed the pasts months activities and have derived the lessons learnt. How do you organise a broad campaign for digital rights with little budget but a lot of motivation, help and fun?

Here is how we did it:

As a member of European Digital Rights (EDRi) and as bloggers on, we have been involved in the debate around ACTA for a while. However, for a long time, the public was not interested in the topic. The breaking point came, when the anti-SOPA protests brought public attention to ACTA in Germany. Last year we translated the EDRi brochure “What makes ACTA so controversial – and why meps should care” into German and thus had information on ACTA prepared in German as the debate began. As this was pretty much the only information available in German at the time, we quickly became a sought after contact point for press and other activists.

On the 11th of February over 100.000 people showed up at demonstrations taking place in 60 cities around Germany to protest against ACTA. No one, including us, had expected so many people to show up, considering it was about minus ten degrees and colder the demonstrations were a huge success. In Berlin, we had registered a demonstration with 600 people with the police. They were just as surprised as we were when over 10.000 people showed up on the day. We had made many signs and posters and had organised a small van with a loudspeaker system.

And this is how it looked: Anonymous with demonstration signs.

Our main slogan was “Don't cement copy right – reform it”!

After the demonstrations, we realised that it would be a big challenge to keep the dynamics of these protest alive until the actual vote on ACTA. We made a video to help mobilise the protesters and motivate them to keep going:

In cooperation with Bitbureauet from Denmark, we created the platform The platform helped people to connect directly with their MEPs and to show who is likely to vote against or in favour of ACTA as well as those who are undecided.

Different banners were created to help bring attention to the platform: Call Brussels.

We collect all relevant information ressources and offer a broad overview on the issues connected to ACTA on our website.

A citizen submitted a petition in the e-petitioning system of the German parliament demanding the discontinuation of the ratification. Within a month the 61.000 supporters signed the petition. We printed all of the 61.000 names on a big banner which we used during demonstrations and protest actions:

Next steps: Campaing against ACTA.

We wanted even more action. An international protest day was planned for June 9th. During the demonstration in February many of the protesters asked for flyers adn other forms of printed information. As we are a small NGO with little funding, we started a crowdfunding campaign. We promised to print enough material for protests taking place in Germany and Austria if we reached our goal of 15.000 EUR. We collected 12.000 EUR through the corwdsourcing campaing and reached our goal of 15.000 through a donation of 3.000 EUR made by the Chaos Computer Club (CCC). In cooperation with our friends at the design company 10hoch16 we created different print materials, including:

75.000 flyers with detailed information on ACTA (PDF):

180 rolls of barrier tape to symbolize how ACTA will block our right to a free internet in future:

50.000 flyers to mobilise people to go to the demonstrations on the 9th of June with the slogan “we are many and we want to share”

When all the materials were printed. We organised a mass postal distribution and sent out packeges to over 200 people in 180 cities in Germany and Austria.

We offered several sizes, these were the two small ones:

Packing took two days and we had to use ten shopping carts to get the packages to the post office:

We made a little video documenting this action:

We also printed stickers with six different anti-ACTA slogans which we had crowdsourced:

We posted the six slogans on Twitter and Facebook to see which was the most popular one. The winner was “leave our Internet alone or we will take away your fax machines”. We printed a banner for the demonstration on June 9th using this slogan:

(Photo is (c) CAMPACT)

Sending out 99 jute-bags with a screenprint saying: Say no to the pig in a poke (in German “the cat in the bag” / “Die Katze im Sack”) and sent them to all 99 German members of the European parliament along with a letter explaining why ACTA is the pig in the poke.

This campaging has been an opportunity for us to show how to campaign for digital rights offline. We were very motivated and feel all the efforts to test new things have payed off. We have been overwhelmed by the support and positive feedback we received during the past months and would like to thank everyone who joined in the protests. And we are very happy that ACTA became history in July when the majority of the European parliament voted against it!


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