We can’t take our government anywhere ‘nowadays’. About a week ago, in Seoul Korea, the U.S. Government decided to sign an ACTA [Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement] treaty with several powerful nations [South Korea and Canada notably]. This treaty encapsulated a fair amount of free-trade of intellectual agreements and most importantly, an Internet Chapter. Fellow nerds, we’ve done it. We have the government making chapters and policy outlines specifically to protect our best interest, via the internet. Unfortunately, there appears to be a reason why this treaty was signed in a great deal of secrecy. Below are the issues at hand.

  • A secret internet treaty being called an anti-counterfeit treaty. Yet it deals majorly in copyright policy.
  • A lot of digital intellectual property addendums were added to the treaty. The internet provisions impose a set of copyright demands on the global internet. One of the addendums would have internet service providers adopt “three-strikes” disconnection policies and a global expansion of DMCA-style anti-circumvention laws. This treaty also forces ISPs to be liable for all you evil and pesky rule-breakers.
  • ISPs would then be liable for copyrighted material being sent over their networks. Which is against any law that currently exist on Earth.

This would, in a sense, be a global takedown notice to anyone who shares [p2p, e-mail, personal website] copyrighted material anywhere online. The ‘three-strikes’ policy, if adopted would completely bypass any form of due process and kick users off of the internet post-haste.

The whole time I am reading this legal mumbo-jumbo, I thought to myself, “You know what’s a real problem on the internet that involves material that isn’t copyrighted, but is shared on several computers? Child porn.” The U.S. and the world should be much more adamant in booting those sickies off of the planet; let alone the internet. Alas, my dream of kicking child porn traders is met with a nightmare of an internet where they will have an easier time trading their illegal filth than I would with my digitized Ansel Adams photos.

  • You can be accused by some shadowy figure [RIAA or MPAA for example] three times and be booted. Only this time, this treaty would enforce these rules globally. The funny thing, is that this not my biggest concern. The major issue is why is this being done in such a secretive manner? The current administration says it has to be in secret for “national security reasons.”
  • It should also be noted that the WIPO [The Intellectual Property World Trade Organization] treaty turned these very policies down. The policies were removed and put into secret negotiations, because world opinion was against this.

The biggest changes are the liability policies we have all grown to love. Remember when you would get a letter or an e-mail from your ISP stating you need to stop or takedown whatever copyrighted material you were trading? The ACTA law supersedes this. Now you are liable from the get go. This treaty could be the biggest bully on ISPs to force providers to turn over personal information of users. This is not if you are prosectuted, this is under the allegation that you were trading copyrighted material. This means that everyone in your household is punished for your crime, because it goes by IP address and not by person.

Now let’s be clear, you could be alleged to have traded copyrighted material by a ‘rights holder’. Not a cop. Not a jury. It could be me, a photographer who complains [three times] about a photo you copied from someone else’s web page. Boom, Icanhascheeseburger.com is off the internet in seconds!

It is unbelievible that this has been drawn up in secret and discussed for so long.

How did this happen? Who knows. My bet would be the Intellectual Property lobbyist have convinced U.S. law makers and the world that intellectual property itself [the ownership of it] is the driving force in our global economy. Honestly, this could be about a business model. It does not create an environment where Joe Artist is able to make money off of their work. It gives big business ‘club-like tools’ to bring down on the stuff they do not like. This would dramatically undermined peoples’ online freedom of expression and cripple the rich world of user generated content. It makes the internet a little colder and scary place to use.

We should not elevate companies to the point where they would have the power of the police or a judicial branch of government. What will take the biggest hit once ACTA is put into action? Well you basically would not be able to own a start-up that is based on user generated content. For lack of better words…

Not Cool

Source: Michael Geist

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