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Monthly Archives: April 2010

ACTA fully leaked; USTR now wants to release it

A few weeks ago, the entire draft of the ACTA leaked with some scary proposals that would severely limit individual privacy, consumer rights, and online freedom.

The U.S. Trade Representative, who has been pushing for the ACTA’s secrecy all this time, has promised that the trade agreement will do nothing to change U.S. law. But this is a blatant lie. Trade agreements like WIPO and TRIPPS were used in the past to bypass public debate since the receive less attention that actual legislation. Once these trade agreements are passed, lobbyists claim each country must change its laws in order to comply with their international obligations. ACTA is even more creative by calling it an executive agreement. And now that the entire draft has been leaked, the USTR says its willing to release it.

I’ve gone over a bit of the ACTA, but now the full document verifies many of the fears I and others have had about the agreement.  The draft includes proposals for borders searches of iPods (without probable cause), secondary liability for infringement without safe harbors or exceptions, making Google and eBay pretty much illegal and even forcing your ISP to be liability for anything its users do online. The ACTA even allows for injunctions to prevent “imminent infringement”. Yes, Minority Report style pre-crime prevention is coming to intellectual property first. Also, there would be no more due process for online anonymity and intellectual property cases get special priority within the court system while also evolving intellectual property crimes from a civil issue to a criminal offence. This means rather than being sued by the effected party, the government becomes a free police service for corporations. The U.S. doesn’t need the ACTA for this. Thanks to the PRO-IP law, our Department of Justice already prioritizes copyright infringement over less important crimes like identity fraud.

Slowly, public officials are noticing the lack of transparency and dangerous provisions in the trade agreement.  The E.U. Parliament voted 663-13 against the ACTA, but this hasn’t stopped the negotiations from continuing. President Obama, unfortunately, remains a strong supporter of the ACTA.

Don’t worry entertainment industry: United Kingdom here to save you

With almost no debate and minor opposition, the United Kingdom passed the Digital Economy Bill which is pretty much a wish list from the entertainment industry looking to trample over individual’s rights in order to prop up their obsolete business models.

The Digital Economy Bill includes a “three-strikes” type provision to ban copyright infringers from the internet, based on accusations from copyright holders, not the courts. This will also make open wireless networks impossible as the law holds the owner of the signal responsible for any infringement.  Let’s ignore the research that shows the costs of forcing ISPs to police their uses costs more than the already inflated lost revenue from the entertainment industry.

The law was pushed though the UK Parliament using a system called wash-up that avoided most of the debate and scrutiny a law would normally receive. Of course, let’s not forget Lord Peter Mandelson personally helped orchestra this law after having a ritzy dinner with the head of the MPAA (that hasn’t stopped Mandelson from infringing on others’ copyrights).

So ISPs are now legally forced to basically subsided entertainment companies who are unwilling to recognize changes in the marketplace.  Nothing in this bill reveals why people will suddenly start paying for content.  Rather, these laws only push file-sharing and piracy into more fragmented and underground areas making them even harder to track.

Newspaper paywall broken down by single digit subscribers

Looks like Newsday can boast about its 35 paying subscribers. After three months, Johnston Press is ending its £5/quarter paywall after less then 10 people signed up. This news comes as Rupert Murdoch just put two of his U.K. papers behind an even more expensive pay wall – £1 per day and £2 for a week.

So newspaper executives can claim people will pay for newspaper content, but the real-world case studies show newspapers are vastly over estimating the number of subscribers they’ll sign while also giving up tons of traffic and publicity to websites willing to give content for free and find better ways to monetize their traffic.