SOPA and PIPA may have been shut down (for now at least), but the fight is not over. ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement) is currently in the process of being signed by countries that are willing to follow along with its laws and values.
In a nutshell, this is a proposed plurilateral agreement that will establish international standards and regulations for the purpose of intellectual rights enforcement. Perhaps the most alarming fact of this agreement is that it will establish its own legal framework outside of any single country’s jurisdiction and laws, which places this on par with other organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and even the United Nations (UN).
The main scope of this agreement is counterfeit goods, generic medicines, and copyright infringement on the internet. So just think of SOPA and PIPA combined, with all of the lovely ramifications they would have brought to the world, and mold that with the fact that you will no longer be able to save money buying generic medicine from your local Rite Aid because it will be considered “illegal” and not being able to buy those cheap, lead paint toys from your local flea market.
Since ACTA is an international treaty, it is an example of policy laundering used to establish and implement legal changes. Policy laundering allows legal provisions to be pushed through via closed negotiations among private members of the executive bodies of the signatories. This method avoids use of public legislation and its judiciary oversight. Once ratified, companies belonging to non-members may be forced to follow the ACTA requirements since they will otherwise fall out of the safe harbor protections. Also, the use of trade incentives and the like to persuade other nations to adopt treaties is a standard approach in international relationships. Additional signatories would have to accept ACTA’s terms without much scope for negotiation.
Thing is, NO ONE knows jack shit about this because both the Bush administration and the Obama administration had rejected requests to make the text of ACTA public, with the White House saying that disclosure would cause “damage to the national security.”
Similarly, it provides for the criminalization of copyright infringement, granting law enforcement the powers to perform criminal investigation, arrests and pursue criminal citations or prosecution of suspects who may have infringed on copyright. Perhaps the main word that worries me is “flexibility,” which is used in the sentence issued by the European Commission: “the European Commission explains that a free-standing agreement provides the most flexibility ‘to pursue this project among interested countries.'”
The USTR (United States Trade Representative) has invited a number of industry groups composed of traditional large intellectual property-based corporations to give input and suggestions during the drafting of ACTA. These groups include the International Intellectual Property Alliance (which includes the Business Software Alliance (BSA), Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA or MPA), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. The RIAA supports the agreement, and has given input and suggestions to the creation of ACTA.
Let’s get stupid here. The draft agreement would empower security officials at airports and other international borders to conduct random ex officio searches of laptops, MP3 players, and cellular phones for illegally downloaded or “ripped” music and movies. Travelers with infringing content would be subject to a fine and may have their devices confiscated or destroyed.
But perhaps the most confusing part of all this is their view on software that is INTENTIONALLY made to be free. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has published “Speak out against ACTA,” stating that ACTA threatens free software by creating a culture “in which the freedom that is required to produce free software is seen as dangerous and threatening rather than creative, innovative, and exciting.” The FSF also argues that ACTA will make it harder for users of free operating systems to play non-free media because DRM protected media would not be legally playable with free software.
Aaron Shaw, Research Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, argues that “ACTA would create unduly harsh legal standards that do not reflect contemporary principles of democratic government, free market exchange, or civil liberties. Even though the precise terms of ACTA remain undecided, the negotiants’ preliminary documents reveal many troubling aspects of the proposed agreement” such as removing “legal safeguards that protect Internet Service Providers from liability for the actions of their subscribers,” in effect giving ISPs no option but to comply with privacy invasions. Shaw goes on to say that “[ACTA] would also facilitate privacy violations by trademark and copyright holders against private citizens suspected of infringement activities without any sort of legal due process.”
The USA could give a rat’s ass if SOPA and PIPA were turned down; this bill covers that and so much more.
Only in Uhmerica (this may be an international treaty, but this piece of shit was drafted here in the good ol’ U. S. of Derp.)