How ACTA will change the world's internet laws

Since the text of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (a secret copyright treaty being negotiated by a members' club of rich countries, out of sight of the United Nations) leaked, scholars and public interest groups have been poring over its clauses. Here are two alarming pieces of research explaining just how bad this really is:

First, Knowledge Ecology International analyzes the Provisions on Injunctions and Damages. They conclude that ACTA goes way, way beyond the TRIPS (the copyright/patent/trademark stuff in the World Trade Organization agreement), creating an entirely new realm of liability for people who provide services on the net. Since liability for service-providers determines what kind of services we get, increasing their liability for copyright infringement will make it harder to invent new tools like web-lockers, online video-hosting services, blogging services, and anything else that's capable of being used to infringe copyright.

This matters because various governments, including the EU, Canada, and the USA, have argued that there is nothing in ACTA that will change domestic law -- that it's just a way of forcing everyone else to adopt their own laws. What we see here, though, is a radical rewriting of the world's Internet laws, taking place in secret, without public input. Public input? Hell, even Members of Parliament and Congressmembers don't get a say in this. The Obama administration's trade rep says that the US will sign onto ACTA without Congressional debate, under an administrative decree.

Next is Public Knowledge's Sherwin Sly, with a broad look at what ACTA says and what it means:

But the potential effects of ACTA go beyond merely nudging interpretations of U.S. law in a new direction. Acceding to a new international agreement would hamper attempts to amend some of the flaws in our current law, locking us into a system that already has apparent flaws. ACTA's effects on the laws of other countries should also be taken into account, as we want to ensure that IP laws don't unduly hamper the free speech of other countries' citizens, or, to take a more commercial tack, that IP laws don't subject US technology companies, like the makers of digital recording devices or hosting websites, to overbroad copyright liability.

(via Michael Geist)

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  1. The last gasps of the old dying elite. Ahhk how will we protect glove manefacktur without the strong oaken walls of the guild hall………………………

  2. Crickets.

    And on a board where “information wants to be free” activists are over-represented, no less.

    We’re screwed. Absent a major PR faux pas — unlikely, given that the media mega-corps can afford the best PR talent in the world — ACTA will pass without much fuss or notice.

    Because although everybody always says “read the fine print”, nobody ever does. We can’t be bothered. It’s boring.

    We’re screwed.

  3. Why is none of this on the news, how are the peole supposed to know what is going on if they have to go reading from blog to blog?? This needs to come out in the papers or TV; if the people don’t know what is going on then how can they show that this is not something they want to support?

    We need to find a way to inform the masses!!

    1. “”Why is none of this on the news, how are the peole supposed to know what is going on if they have to go reading from blog to blog?? This needs to come out in the papers or TV; if the people don’t know what is going on then how can they show that this is not something they want to support?

      We need to find a way to inform the masses!!””

      hehe… the secret nature of the treaty – it will get media into trouble – fines, legal action, shutdowns – if they talk about this. go to any major english newspaper of the many acta countries – either it’s not reported or it is spun in a way to say “under this law, content creators will enjoy a golden age of renaissance where they will be paid for their work and there will be zero piracy” – with no mention of the loss of personal privacy, deep packet sniffing, the 3 strikes.

      I understand they need to be paid – blood sweat and tears to create content. And I don’t completely disagree with this agreement. Heck, if i did some work i need to paid for and someone stole it, i’d be fuming as well. However, consider these issues:

      – DRM

      – Cannot play in our preferred devices and if we change formats to do so, we are also in the red – i buy CDs and i rip it to put in my mp3 player – i’m screwed right?

      – cross-border restrictions on media – content not available out of US is not available in USA (like iTunes – different countries have different rules)

      – no easy way to purchase stuff (no credit cards for under 18s)

      – no improvements in id theft and credit card frauds protection

      – the exorbitant prices of media – not accessible but who doesn’t want to be entertained?

      – if they don’t make it easy to consume legally and they eliminate illegal ways to obtain content, where exactly do they make money? what if people boycott? what if they avoid going to movies and buy secondhand or rent a dvd for $2 a day when it comes out in the format of their choice?

    2. It’s not on the news because it is in the media conglomerates’ best interests not to broadcast it to a wider audience who will justifiably be outraged.

      But what can we do about it, other than bitching about it? Vote out the leaders who bring it in? It’ll be too late then and parliamentary members don’t have a choice in the matter anyway.

      The only thing we can do is to stop consuming the very media they’re trying to protect. Which is much easier said than done.

  4. The most frightening aspect of the ACTA, aside from the corrupt nature in which USTR Ron Kirk is handling the “negotiation”, is an increase in secondary liability.

    Making ISPs, web sites, blogs, etc legally culpable for content and comments generated by their users is fucking ridiculous. This, combined with *preemptive injunctions against possible future infringers* amounts to wholesale censorship of protected speech by private parties.

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