The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been under secret negotiation since 2006 aiming to crackdown on counterfeiting and copyright infringement around the world. Most nations already have many laws against these acts, yet the international community has found the need to establish a completely new trade agreement that officials say will not affect U.S., or other nations’, laws. And as for why it’s being written in secret, that is due to national security, as the Obama administration claims. What counterfeiting and online file-sharing have to do with national security is still top-secret.
I realized I’ve yet to dive into the ACTA controversy on Prodigeek even with my riveted fascination on the subject. Significant documents related to the accord have revealed a scary set of dream proposals written almost exclusively by media companies and those looking for stronger copyright laws. This includes proposals to force ISPs to monitor copyrighted content, instituting a three strikes law banning alleged infringers after 3 warnings, and increasing criminal charges against copyright infringement. Almost no consumer groups have been allowed in the negotiations, and on the rare occasions consumer groups have even been entertained, they have been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements making it very difficult to generate a true public debate. Recently when Mexico opened its discussions, entertainment companies laughed out those who brought up consumer interests. One person who live-Tweeted the event was forced out.
Politicians and media outlets are starting to grasp onto the lack of transparency, but there’s yet to be a public outcry at the content of the trade agreement. The U.S. Trade Representative and lobbyists from media companies continue to claim this agreement will not affect U.S. law while refusing to explain why its needed. What has happened before with TRIPPS and WIPO is exactly that – a trade agreement passes (because it gets less public scrutiny than laws), then Big Content goes around telling countries they have to change their laws to achieve harmony with their international agreements.
Also like TRIPPS and WIPO, the ACTA lacks any concern for consumers and their interests. It’s a trade agreement focusing on protecting powerful industries and supporting their obsolete business models, even going so far as to harm innovation in other industries by increasing penalties for secondary or contributory infringement (meaning YouTube or eBay would be responsible for what their users do). Don’t believe this will matter, look at South Korea where many of these laws have already been put in place because of, yes, a free trade agreement that is anything but free. Many service providers now ban most music and video uploads for fear of being sued for infringement. Some are being banning advertisements because the advertisement might infringe.
And none of this has anything to do with counterfeiting. Copyright infringement has nothing at all to do with counterfeiting (though the agreement does have some provisions against it, specifically border searches, yay). Counterfeiting, of course, has a much more negative public opinion than file-sharing, hence the bait-and-switch.
So written by lobbyists with little to no public input; the details hidden from the public for unknown national security reasons; major ramifications to U.S. law even though we’re told it won’t; and a trade agreement really all about protecting select industry’s obsolete business models. Sounds like our government at work.
For a more in-depth analysis of the ACTA, make sure to read Michael Geist’s ACTA Guide.