We have issued our call to arms against The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Lest you be in any doubt about the need to revoke or refuse this treaty:
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), recently signed by the EU, was negotiated with more than thirty-five countries at once. ACTA significantly expands international law on criminal copyright enforcement, from one paragraph to more than ten. It also mandates digital enforcement procedures, now thankfully vague after public pushback against the idea of cutting off user Internet access through “graduated response.” ACTA exports U.S. penalties for circumventing technological protection measures. It requires governments to encourage private arrangements between Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and right holders to enforce copyright law. It strengthens the power of border officials. And it requires the establishment of enforcement infrastructure, and enforcement coordination between countries. It fails to include basic balancing measures, such as the usual mention of fair use or limitations and exceptions.
There are substantial problems with how ACTA was negotiated: in secret, without public input, outside of institutions such as the United Nations (UN) or World Trade Organization (WTO). And there are places where ACTA potentially departs significantly from U.S. law, such as in suggesting criminal liability for Internet intermediaries.
The post also outlines key aspects of exiting US copyright protections. The very protections the US is exporting around the word via free trade agreements:
Many features of existing U.S. copyright law are harsh by international standards. The U.S. penalizes the attempt to access digital material against a rights-holder’s wishes, even when the material itself is not protected by copyright. We guarantee large monetary awards against infringers, with no showing of actual harm. We effectively require websites to cooperate with rights-holders to take down material, without requiring proof that it’s infringing in court. And our criminal copyright law has such a low threshold that it criminalizes the behavior of most people online, instead of targeting infringement on a true commercial scale.
Unlike past administrations that chose not to use government resources to protect private companies, this administration has built up the copyright enforcement infrastructure, and publishes a newsletter about its efforts with language that compares copyright infringement to terrorism. Last year, the current Copyright Czar secretly encouraged Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and rights-holders to establish a private agreement to enforce copyrights against Internet users, out of courts. And this administration has deputized the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to seize websites as if the Internet were a physical border, where protections for civil liberties are few.
Yes, it’s bothersome to rights-holders that they can’t just shut down foreign websites or block them. But think of what they already have: no such website can be created in the United States; U.S.-based users of the website can be sued for huge damages; Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will send Internet users warning letters and potentially cut them offline with no due process or government oversight; owners of infringing foreign websites can’t come to the United States or hold assets here, for risk of seizure or arrest; and as evidenced by what’s just happened to Megaupload, American prosecutors will even extradite people from other countries for copyright offenses.
Make no mistake, this is not about enforcing peoples property rights. It’s about stamping all over our traditional freedom of fair use. Its a craven attempt by a powerful vested interest to gauge people. It restricts their freedom of speech and their creativity. it is a backwoods step. It signals just how wrong things have become in the USA.
Other links related to ACTA:
The ACTA is designed to ensure this type of thing directly affects you:
Law enforcement and regulatory bodies overstepping legal bounds, then trying to cover it up. To hell with the victims. I am shocked, absolutely shocked.
The political lackeys of powerful media vested interests are removing our rights and reducing our liberty. They are putting short term profit over principle. But without principle there can be no property right. Whoever has power simply takes what they want. It is back to a pre-capitalist system. There will of necessity be a retribalization of society. Life will again be uncertain, short and brutish. Nice.
There is more at stake than many realize. We must stand up for our traditional liberties and freedoms. Lest it be death by a thousand cuts. Let’s avoid this.
Graphic on the top of this post is from Somebody Think of the Children.