Latest leaked draft of secret copyright treaty: US trying to cram DRM rules down the world's throats

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.

ACTA Text Leaks: U.S. Concedes on Secondary Liability, Wants To Go Beyond DMCA on Digital Locks


  1. Actually its Corporate America that has/is forcing DRM down the throat of the rest of the world. I doubt the everyday “Joe” that walks around and calls America home has any say in what policies are being forced out through the upper echelon.

    I mean hell majority of media companies are looking out for their number one – that is the profit. And these new DRM measures are simply their way of jumping ahead since they were asleep at the wheel in the first place when the internet was just about to become as popular or rather ‘necessary’ for the average person on the street. With the advent of of a possible media-less streaming of videos, information, etc for entertainment – of course they are going to pave the road so they can create locked boxes for home entertainment.

    I know a few people that are working on services much like Playstation Network, XBOX360, iTunes stores for various devices for home movie playing etc. You buy into a subscription, or purchase a virtual product that you have no physical backup to, just an account on a server that keeps track of your purchases. Its great to be able to stream the latest etc, but hell it comes with the caveat of ‘locking the system down’ so DRM is going to be with everything once this stuff gets off the ground.

    I am not saying ‘give up the fight’ I think its more of a reason to fight, but you have to accept that its not just “America” that is pushing this, its the corporate machine that grew up in America and has spread across the globe that is planting the seeds of restricting content and usage of what could possibly be the next big thing. The American market is and always has been the testing ground for corporations to test the extent of their power in controlling the usage of a new form of delivery of a product.

    After all is said, with this new release of what is being pushed out there – I can not help but feel trapped in nostalgia. Missing the days I could simply share something with a friend, loan out a book to a neighbor, watch a movie at a huge party (without the need to get permission to screen said movie with a big production company). Hell I miss the feel of paper between my thumb and forefinger as I turn the page in a book.

  2. I like how Cory conveniently forgot to mention that it’s perfectly legal now to break the DRM (jailbreak) your iPhone or iPad to install any software you wish on it. You know, it was all over the news just a month ago…he just didn’t word it that way to keep it scary and spooky. And of course, it doesn’t go along with his philosophy. To repeat, jailbreaking the iPhone and iPad (breaking the DRM) is NOT ILLEGAL.

    And to paraphrase Cory: “I won’t ever buy anything by Cory Doctorow and you shouldn’t either”. But seriously, Boing Boing is a great site, just could do without the preaching by someone like Cory.

    1. I like how Cory conveniently forgot to mention that it’s perfectly legal now to break the DRM (jailbreak) your iPhone or iPad to install any software you wish on it.

      Cory linked to two stories about that, under the part where he talks about the US’ extreme rules being eroded. I like how you conveniently forgot to read the article before you jumped on it.

    2. You’re such a goofball :) Cory did mention that, just not in as many words:

      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.

    3. Urf, this bullshit depressing and increasingly aggrivating. Somebody (?) do something.

      By the way, while it’s lovely that the US have relaxed their rules, it’s not so great for those of us in other countries, where we get the international laws but not the lax ones.

      This is all just a game for corporations and lawyers to see who can push legislation the furthest to get the most $$$$$.

  3. Huzzah for the “Cheddar”-style trademark protection! Now Iceland can finally come down on those infringing bastards selling their knock-off solid water products.

  4. I’m a video editor.

    I have several times ripped DVDs to take extracts with the permission of the copyright owners, who could not provide the material quickly enough in any other way.

    It seems that to do the same with a Blu-ray, even with the copyright holder’s permission, will be illegal.

    This, like region coding, is more about big business keeping control than about copyright.

  5. I don’t think Cheddar is a good example for the EU-style rules on place trademarks – things like Champagne and Prosciutto are more appropriate.

    “Cheddar” itself isn’t protected. According to Wikipedia “Only cheese produced and sourced in the English counties of Somerset, Devon, Dorset, and Cornwall may be given the Protected Designation of Origin name ‘West Country Farmhouse Cheddar'”.

    “Cheddaring” has long been recognised as a process that has long since gone beyond the bounds of Cheddar in particular or Somerset more generally. Still, it is true that a lot of what is sold as “cheddar”, eg in North America, is some bastard extruded product with buggerall to do with the original real thing… it would be good if a lot of that stuff could be renamed something else.

    There’s only one Cheddar Cheese maker in Cheddar, the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, which does make good proper farmhouse Cheddar (cloth-wrapped and matured for months, some of it in the Gorge’s caves) but it is a relatively small and mainly tourist shop-and-watch-the-cheddar-being-made place.

    I’m no expert, but I live about 4 miles from Cheddar (and walk around the Gorge most weekends). As a student in summer 1977 I worked at the now-defunct Crump Way Cheese Factors warehouse in Wells, turning over 60-lb truckles of traditional farmhouse Cheddar.

  6. @Narmitaj, “prosciutto” is not a place, it means “ham”.
    You probably mean “prosciutto di Parma” or “Parma ham”, but there are other protected regional hams. :-)

  7. Umm, Goofball, Cory did reference the fact that it’s legal to jailbreak your iPhone, etc.

    See the second link in the final paragraph of his post.

    His point is that these DRM strangleholds are being cut back by US courts, but are being pushed internationally – and in theory if the international agreements include stronger DRM laws, and the US signs up to those agreements, the weaker laws in the US (and anywhere where the national government signed/ratified the agreement) would be superseded by the international agreements.

    He’s looking at this from a world global point of view, not US-centric.

    Did you read the post, or just skim it?

  8. I’m grateful that the US government is willing to every tool they have to protect consumers from piracy. Every day, millions of dollars are lost to intellectual property theft and without the protection DRM offers, that number would be much higher. Without DRM, those costs would have to be passed on to the consumer.

    1. I really hope you’re a troll.

      DRM is ineffective precisely because it takes only one person to break it for illegal distribution to become viable. Your statement implies that DRM provides a barrier to piracy by stopping the average person from taking the music from their legally bought media, instead of acquiring their content from illegal, unprotected channels. Either that, or I missed your logic train as it derailed at 100 mph.

    2. I’m assuming you;re a troll or just making a joke; but still I’ll correct you:

      “millions of dollars are lost to intellectual property theft”

      No money is lost what-so-ever. Money just isn’t made. There’s a BIG difference.

    3. What Dave meant to say was “Who’s That Trip-Trapping Over My Bridge!?”

      Billy Goats Gruff Little, Middle, and Big will in this scene be played by invictus, jtf, and anon, respectively.

  9. Unless you subscribe to Louis xiv’s statement, “I am the state”, then it’s the US government trying to do this, not the US. An important distinction.

  10. Can anyone raise a false positive accusation? We (and by that I mean the Internet, and by the Internet I mean various groups of people who just happen to use the internet) could just provide three baseless strikes against every media corporation who ever files one of these.

    Never pass a law you know can’t be obeyed, people get out of the habit really easily.

      1. Absolutely :) I’m reminded very much how wonderful some of the other flavors are every time I come into one of these threads.

        Now back to the stuff with flavor and no loaded calories.

  11. Predictions, please:

    How long before the first shooting war over copyright? And who will be America’s enemy in that war?

    (I assume America is the only country that would actually kill over intellectual “property”)

    1. If there were a shooting war over copyright, it would be a second, American civil war. Copyright restrictions are wildly unpopular in America.

  12. Thanks for the update.

    Reminds me that this is an election season in the US. How can we take advantage of that?

  13. Those that think that strong IP and strong copyright are important to U.S. productivity, please explain how this is so when:

    1) Jazz would be totally illegal under today’s strong copyright. Many worry about the future of Jazz for this reason.

    2) No smart phone implementation is possible without infringing on hosts of patents. This is because the patents covering various aspects of smart phones are held by literally hundreds of companies and individuals.

    3) Time Warner Music makes 2 million a year on average licensing “Happy Birthday,” a song whose tune was first published in the late 1800’s and whose words are not clearly attributable to any particular author.

    4) The penalties for copyright infringement are harsh and clearly defined in the law. Penalties for false claims of copyright like those of Time Warner Music on the “Happy Birthday” song (unlike false claims for patent coverage) carry no penalties. The public isn’t even considered to have standing in the court to file suit against a company claiming a copyright on a Public Domain work.

  14. Just another way how in America things have changed from Innocent until proven Guilty to Guilty until you can afford to prove yourself Innocent.

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