A few days ago, we celebrated a well-earned victory against the Old Guard. SOPA and PIPA were called unconstitutional. They were shelved, their proponents were defeated, and all was well on the ‘net. For about an hour. Something’s recently come into play that casts SOPA and PIPA in a whole new light.
Turns out, they folks responsible for SOPA had something up their sleeves the whole time- ladies and gentlemen, meet ACTA. If you thought SOPA and PIPA were bad, just wait- it gets far, far worse.
See, some time before 2006, the RIAA, MPAA, and various other lobby groups got together with a bunch of men and women to start planning this bill behind closed doors. It’s almost as though they knew what they were doing was morally questionable- almost as though they were aware of the public outrage that would occur as a result of their blatant disregard for the people they claimed to be serving. Oh, and one more thing- most of these lobbyists and corrupt politicos weren’t actually democratically elected officials.
That’s right- we’ve got people who we haven’t chosen to represent us trying to make a decision that’ll permanently affect the lives of every man, woman, and child who’s ever used a computer, and they’re doing it in the most underhanded way possible.
If you paid attention to the SOPA fiasco, you’ll already have an idea what ACTA’s about. Trust me on this, though- compared to ACTA, SOPA was small time. In all honesty, it seems as though SOPA/PIPA were designed to fail- custom-tailored to catch public interest and cause public outrage. Then, with everyone burned out and beaming from their victory over the red herring bills, they planned to quietly have nations across the world sign the treaty- thus dooming the Internet on a global scale.
There’s some stuff about counterfeiting, seeds, and generic drugs in there, too, for some reason. It’s all very hush-hush, and all very confusing- we don’t even have access to the full bill yet (it’s being protected more closely than nuclear secrets- something which itself should immediately raise red flags), and what we do know already scares the hell out of me.
What is ACTA?
- Unlike other treaties, which mitigate what “effective enforcement” entails, ACTA conveniently fails to make reference to due process or fair, equitable treatment. Warning bells are ringing.
- It approaches piracy and the distribution of counterfeit goods as the same thing. Piracy is the exchange of data(which many don’t even view as criminal), the production of counterfeit goods is a deliberate criminal act.
- It changes the definition of copyright infringement to “the non-profit facilitation of unauthorized information exchange on the Internet.” Under ACTA, this very post could be considered infringement- after all, the clowns behind the bill haven’t authorized the release of information on it.
- Safe Harbor will no longer exist- third parties will be even more liable for infringement under ACTA than they would have been under SOPA/PIPA
- It allows for- and seemingly requires ISPs to sift through personal files and private data. If you plan to use the Internet under ACTA, kiss your freedom goodbye. Furthermore, it essentially allows rights-holders to use ISPs as a “secret police” against people they deem guilty of infringement, and the government will be required to cover the costs related to persecution- I’m sorry, “prosecution” of the pirates.
- As a caveat to the above, individuals even suspected of piracy can be penalized.
- It spits in the face of the democratic process by calling for the creation of a committee with the capability to review and accept or reject amendments to the treaty.
- Music purchased on one device will no longer be legally allowed to be used on another device. If you burn a CD onto an MP3 player, you’re a criminal.
SOPA and PIPA had the potential to cripple the internet. ACTA will kill it.
Why is ACTA a Concern?
You mean, aside from the obvious?
It’s just a treaty, right? Nothing’s forcing nations to participate in it, sign it, or pass domestic legislation to keep with the jilted tenets of it, right? Funny story- remember the Digital Millennium Copyright Act? Remember how that was passed? A treaty.
The problem with trade agreements like ACTA is that they allow nations like the States- or, more accurately, the corrupt, outdated Intellectual Property barons of the States- to bully other governments into accepting them. They’ve the potential to quickly become an industry standard. Your laws don’t keep with the treaty? You didn’t sign it?
Sorry, but none of the participants can trade with anyone who refuses to comply.
A treaty such as this is essentially economic blackmail, imposing nontraditional sanctions against any nation that refuses to buy into it. This sort of thing has happened before- and now it’s happening again.
The people forcing through this piece of trash don’t care about the consumer. They don’t care about innovation, civil liberties, or freedom of information. All they care about is clutching desperately at their already-fading power. All they care about is making more money, at the expense of anyone who gets in their way.
Surely, the governments of the world won’t stand for something so morally bankrupt as ACTA?
You’d be surprised. Most of the developed world has already signed it- without consulting their citizens.They’ve gone over our heads to dictate how we live our lives online, and how we share information. Worse, they’re trying to justify this downright criminal behavior. Don’t believe me? How about now?
It has to stop. Now.
What You Can Do
When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty- Thomas Jefferson.
Everything in your power. The people behind ACTA think that they can get away with forcing through new trade standards that’ll benefit none but themselves. Our governments think that they can get away with signing on to the treaty without bothering to consult their citizens. They’re forgetting something, these pretenders.
They don’t run society. We do. They’ve just been chosen to represent us- something which they no longer do. And they’re failing to do so. You see where I’m going with this, right?
Spread the word. Write letters to everyone who could possibly influence the bill. Inform your governmental officials of how disgusted you are with their actions. Educate your friends. Educate yourselves. Sign petitions. Join physical protests that are already occurring across the globe. Don’t just kick back and tell yourself that something like this will never pass.
If you resign yourself to such apathy, it will.
The PCMech.com weekly newsletter has been running strong for over 8 years. Sign up to get tech news, updates and exclusive content - right in your inbox. Also get (several) free gifts.