Secret copyright treaty: how we got here, what you can do

In this episode of the always-excellent Command Line geek podcast, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Danny O'Brien does a great job of explaining what's going on with the secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA, a brutal, unprecedented copyright treaty being negotiated behind closed doors), how you can fight it, where it came from and what you can do. It's as good and crunchy an explanation of how modern tech-policy works around the world as you'll get anywhere today. Danny's doing the job I used to do for EFF, and I learned a lot listening to this.

Danny O'Brien on ACTA


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(Image: Etech05: Danny, a Creative Commons Attribution photo from etech's photostream)


  1. Here’s what we can do: nothing, absolutely nothing. The ACTA is neither about punishing old ladies for downloading a couple songs nor about crushing high profile pirates, it’s rather about making everyone potentially liable for something. Globally.

    Governments in every country got out of hands centuries ago, they dont serve the public interests anymore and this treaty is just a way to make them more efficient at controlling people beyond national borders.
    There’s absolutely no way to change this flow of events in a way that doesn’t involve a worldwide revolt with heavy use of violence, just forget fighting this with pen and paper.

    Politicians aren’t ignorant. They perfectly know the implications of what they do, each single decision is deply debated among them and scrutinized by expert panels, albeit in private.
    By attempting to keep this treaty secret they just proved how false is their commitment to public interests. In a sane world this fact alone should give enough reasons to get all of them booted.

    Anyway, good luck!

    1. You’re right, except for one point. Armed revolt won’t work, it never has. If it works, whoever marshalled enough guns to overthrow just becomes the new government. The only solution is economic warfare – money is what they understand, to win will require collectively and strategically withdrawing money from all these sorts of bastards.

  2. I hate to agree, but the first anon is right. Any effort short of trying to overthrow govts is not going to work….and I doubt Joe and Jane public are going to take to the streets over something they can’t see affecting their efforts to buy the last season of “American Idol”.

    Your efforts are wasted. This is in effect, will always be in effect and there is nothing you can do. They’ve already won the battle.

  3. Let them build this in secret.

    Best we can try to do is force this legislation into the penalty box for 90 days for peer review and amendments. Perhaps it can die a silent death before it reaches the state of being signed into law.

  4. Thanks for posting this, Cory, and also for the intro to Command Line. I think the comment he’s made about a sort of “new type” of policy-maker out there (younger, more in sync with Internet culture, etc) is a valid point. That said, I do feel that the forces we’re facing here are probably less human than systemic. Ultimately, when a person works for these governing bodies or industry/trade alliances, they are simply an employee, following a set of guidelines and strategies based of course on the organizational mission or corporate business model.

    As we watch this process unfold, as we see the agreements and treaties roll out, you start to feel, hey, maybe we’re just dealing with highly evolved corporate “organisms”, systems increasingly self-programmed to expand their control at any and all social/human/creative cost. Bottom line: How policy impacts people is, I think, playing an increasingly insignificant part in the development and implementation these sorts of new “protocols”…

    Regarding the previous comments about violent revolution as the only real route out of this mess, I think that these corporate networks know very well how to turn that sort of behavior to their advantage. They know very well how profit from violent revolt. The analogy might be: By becoming “Al Qaeda”, they will simply wind up boosting profits for “Halliburton”.

    I really don’t see a clear “out” at the moment.

  5. And again, not enough people will care to make it effective. If a few thousand Boingers decide not to buy the corporate music and movies (that we aren’t buying anyway!), they really don’t care.

    Save your breath. There is no “out”. Just keep your heads down and keep away from protected content, because eventually it will get you arrested if you don’t follow the rules.

    Sad, but that’s the way it is.

  6. I hate to agree with the doom and gloom analysis, but after the Supreme Court decision the other day, what can we do? Corporate money is going to be flooding into government at an unprecedented level, and legislation like this that puts corporate interests before the needs and rights of the people will fly through congress.

    Welcome to our vassal state, try not to piss off your new corporate rulers.

    That said, spread the word, sign petitions, do whatever you can, and maybe it will accomplish something. It can’t hurt.

  7. I’d say there’s plenty we can do. The ACTA, right now, is being kept under very tight wraps, and there’s already lots of people making enough noise to get senators to react. If this becomes law, keep in mind the kinds of people the ACTA will be angering: hackers, spammers, the entire 4chan community, etc. Groups like CREDO and have been circulating several prominent petitions concerning internet neutrality and the like. There’s always hope, you just have to keep fighting.

  8. …it’s sad after scouting ahead of BushCo’s takeover, and this doppelganger clean up crew that followed to bail out the whales and put a ‘Happy Up’ on the chippies and craps shooters, to see these major decisions piling up one on top of the other, the Lie V. Lie cartoon that politico-media has become, and that scratch ‘n sniff of hard times, and if you’re old enough to remember 1973 and 1984 you know exactly what I mean. The posters are all correct. There is nothing we can do. Use this time to turn inward, grow your social network, have a drink, get laid, stare at the clouds, walk on the beach, do a good deed,…because what comes after will make you wish you’d taken the time off…

  9. Having worked on several government projects in the past, the likes which could make your hair stand on end, I can safely say that our government is fully capable of remote destruction of sizable proportions. Which is to say that a resulting experiment could mean a “happy accident” to some.
    As with headlines, gossip and rants, one can usually catch a glimmer of truth lurking in the fine print below.
    After reading all the comments here, I had to chuckle – age, treachery, money and power certainly win over youth, naivete, comfort and disinformation.
    Good luck to this planet.

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