With all the headlines about SOPA and PIPA, it's easy to forget that President Obama already signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement way back in October. ACTA bypassed the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the United to create a new, multinational governing body that can crack down on intellectual property concerns. Like SOPA and PIPA, ACTA is full of loose language and privacy concerns, and it's caused a lot of hand-wringing in Europe. Yesterday, the EU and 22 of its members signed ACTA, prompting several backlashes; the EU's ACTA investigator quit in outrage, and Polish politicians donned Guy Fawkes masks.
Big media isn’t used to losing a fight, but then again this is the Internet we are talking about here. The much despised SOPA censorship bill introduced by Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith seems to have completely stalled, which according to The Hill is due to a lack of consensus. If you are one of the countless thousands who called your local officials to lodge complaints, sent old fashioned mail, or even just complained in online forums give yourself a pat on the back, somebody heard you.
Nearly the entire internet has been railing against a certain international treaty called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) since details were leaked in 2008. After the backlash, the language of the document was toned down and some more onerous requirements were dropped. Now ACTA-light is heading for a signing ceremony this weekend.
According to IDG, The European Parliament has approved the controversial ACTA copyright treaty. The EU Parliament voted 331-294, with 11 abstaining to accept the current language. There were concerns that the treaty would run afoul of EU data privacy laws. This action will allow the European Commission to accept the deal at a meeting in Sydney next week.
The treaty was negotiated in a series of closed-door meetings over the last few years. That situation is the likely cause for such a large no vote in the Parliament. The secrecy was allegedly imposed by the US negotiators because of the onerous requirements for three-strikes laws. Three-strikes laws would require users accused of copyright infringement three times to be barred from the Internet. The original draft of the legislation when it was leaked said countries would be required to institute these laws. The current language only encourages it.
Many groups are opposed to the treaty, which seems to be on the path to international acceptance. They cite China's lack of participation as an impediment to the treaty actually reducing counterfeiting. The likely target it seems, is copyright infringement. The US State Department made the text public on November 15. How does ACTA sit with you?
ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a treaty on international IP enforcement being secretly negotiated between various nations and trade groups, because apparently the normally inscrutable WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) wasn’t arcane and opaque enough. Documents related to things like copyright enforcement at borders (read: taking your iPod away) have been given classified status as a national security matter by executive order. Really? National security?
When did national security get this lame? ACTA is making me miss the Cold War. Back then, when governments and corporations did back-room dealing, covering up their sinister moves with callous disregard for their citizens’ rights and well being, they were covering up doomsday nuclear stuff on sexy ’60s microfiche. They also had the decency to protect their secrets from James Bond with sexy spies and ninjas.
There are some pretty broad ideas being floated in there, and like floaters, they really need to be flushed. Items like mandatory ISP filtering or ISPs being required to restrict or terminate access for repeat offenders. Liability for “deeplinks” is also mentioned, which should make the search engines very happy too. The RIAA also has a wish for establishing liability against internet service providers who don’t remove or block content quickly enough. ars technica points our that “the RIAA's points, taken in together, seem aimed at gutting the best part of the DMCA” (if there was such a thing) which gave ISPs immunity from materials passing through their networks.
Online activities aren’t the RIAA’s only target. CDs are in its sights too, with the RIAA suggesting that countries "with high rates of production of pirated optical discs", “provide for a system of licensing”, and "maintain complete and accurate records". Imagine codes stamped onto CDs to allow for their tracking.
There is little doubt that right holders are entitled to profit from their work, but it is very concerning that the RIAA seems to have the policy maker’s ear, but that others are not going to be be heard. This is going to result in some very RIAA slanted rules with little rights left for consumers.