Michael Geist writes in with the latest news on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the secret, closed-door copyright treaty that will bring US-style copyright rules (and worse) to the whole world. Particularly disturbing is the growing support for "three-strikes" copyright rules that would disconnect whole families from the Internet if one member of the household was accused (without proof) of copyright infringement. The other big US agenda item is cramming pro-Digital Rights Management (DRM) rules down the world's throats that go way beyond the current obligations under the UN's WIPO Copyright Treaty. In the US version, breaking DRM is always illegal, even if you're not committing any copyright violation -- so breaking the DRM on your iPad to install software you bought from someone who hasn't gone through the Apple approval process is illegal, even though the transaction involves no illicit copying.
Ironically, this DRM push comes just as the US courts and regulators have begun to erode the US's own extreme rules on the subject. Or perhaps this isn't so surprising: in the past, the US copyright lobby has torpedoed the courts and Congress by getting USA to commit to international agreements that went far beyond the rules that they could push through on their own at home.
Given the history of ACTA leaks, to no one's surprise, the latest version of the draft agreement was leaked last night on Knowledge Ecology International's website. The new version - which reflects changes made during an intense week of negotiations last month in Washington - shows a draft agreement that is much closer to becoming reality. Square brackets [ed: these indicate areas where there is still debate] have been removed from many sections, leaving the core issue of scope of the agreement [ed: that is, whether the treaty will cover things like EU-style trademark rules that would prohibit calling it "cheddar cheese" if it's not made in Cheddar, England] as the biggest issue to be resolved when the next round of negotiations begins in a few weeks in Japan.
Perhaps the most important story of the latest draft is how the countries are close to agreement on the Internet enforcement chapter. The Internet enforcement chapter has been among the most contentious since the U.S. first proposed draft language that would have globalized the DMCA and raised the prospect of three strikes and you're out. In the face of opposition, the U.S. has dropped its demands on secondary liability [ed: that is, forcing ISPs and online services to police and censor their users or face prosecution] but is still holding out hope of establishing digital lock rules that go beyond the WIPO Internet treaties and were even rejected by its own courts.
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