Bad ACTA

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement has finally become newsworthy – and it’s about time. This piece in the New York Times goes over the subject in a lot more detail.

Here are my objections to ACTA:

  • Is it really about counterfeiting? From what little we know about ACTA, there is a large amount of anti-piracy stuff in there – and most of that has nothing to do with counterfeiting.
  • Why all the secrecy? Most treaties are negotiated in public, but this one is being kept strictly on the down-low, and nobody wants to tell the rest of us why. The parties at the table include the Trade Negotiators, the Hollywood “sue-the-customers” Copyright Lobby (what are they doing there?) and … er… that’s it. They’re not even telling us who wants it kept secret; While President Barak “Transparency” Obama has defended the secrecy as a matter of “National Security”, many – including the European Parliament – are calling for the contents to be made public.
  • Guilty unless proven innocent? ACTA contains a provision to permanently remove a person from the internet after three accusations of piracy. On it’s face, that is not unreasonable, except that that is three accusations, not three convictions; and that is blatantly unconstitutional in the US – can you say “no person may be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law“?

Here are some choice quotes from the article and my response…

“The threat of physical goods bearing counterfeit trademarks is a real one, and it is a priority for ACTA,… Americans do not want to brush their teeth with counterfeit toothpaste or drive a car with knockoff brakes.”

True, but that’s just fear-mongering – we already have laws in place to deal with both of these problems. NEXT!!!

several people with knowledge of the talks said there was no truth to one early rumor — that the accord would empower customs officials to search digital music players for illegally copied songs at border crossings.

Simple solution: There’s only one way to put our minds at rest – Make the contents of the treaty public! Problem solved.

“Given the importance of this agreement to our economy and to consumers, we must not allow ACTA to be derailed by a minority opposed to protecting the rights of artists, inventors and entrepreneurs,” Mark T. Esper, executive vice president of the Global Intellectual Property Center

It makes me feel so much better to know that the Global Intellectual Property Center has our best interests at heart, but I am fairly sure that their constituents are not really artists, inventors or entrepreneurs. I’m not opposed to “protecting their rights”, but these folks forget that copyright is a bargain between “artists, inventors and entrepreneurs” and their consumers and customers. As things stand, that bargain is hideously one-sided and is getting worse, as media conglomerates defend their “rights” at the expense of everyone else… including those “artists, inventors and entrepreneurs” they so vociferously claim to “protect”.

One supporter of the talks, the Motion Picture Association of America, is urging U.S. negotiators not to back down on proposals for fighting the unauthorized digital copying of movies. “Internet piracy has emerged as the fastest-growing threat to the filmed entertainment industry… M.P.A.A. firmly believes that a strong ACTA should address this challenge, raising the level and effectiveness of copyright enforcement in the digital and online marketplaces.”

A-HA! Now we’re getting to the meat of the matter and getting a glimpse at “the man behind the curtain” . Only one problem; piracy and counterfeiting are two different things, and you’re trying to cram them both into one treaty…

Bottom Line: It’s clearly and obviously an attempt at an international DMCA-style law by the back door. Implementing this as an International Treaty will result in law without the legislative process – Congress will not get a vote or a veto; the President will sign it and it’s game over.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but it’s pretty obvious to me that the Movie and Music industries are behind the secrecy; sneakily trying to create an internationally-enforceable DMCA under the guise of combating “counterfeiting” is just their style. After all, they have some experience in the lack art of Hijacking laws in the dead of night

For the record, I do not share copyrighted materials. I do not do Peer-to-peer. I try my best to respect the rights of the artists that give of themselves to bring us art and entertainment. However, have little respect for an industry that enforces its “rights” at the expense of those of its customers’ and uses legislation like the DMCA to remove my fair use and criminalize reasonable behavior. If I want to watch my movie on my iPod I should be able to without committing a felony or having to pay for the same thing twice. And letting this industry write the copyright rules – particularly in secret – is like letting the lunatics take over the asylum.

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