The Similarity Between ACTA And Chinese Internet Censorship

from the it's-all-about-secondary-liability dept

To be fair, it may have been Bono who first made the connection explicit, but others are beginning to notice that there are some worrisome parallels between what is being pushed via ACTA and other methods and ongoing internet censorship in China. The latest, as pointed out by the EFF, is writer Rebecca MacKinnon, who walks you through the way in which Chinese censorship is based on the same faulty principle as ACTA's push for secondary liability for ISPs.

Let's take a step back to explain this. We've discussed, in the past, that the way China operates its "Great Firewall" is not by explicitly banning anything. Instead, it simply puts liability on third parties such as ISPs and says they'll take the blame and face the consequences for any "bad stuff" that is allowed through to Chinese users. As MacKinnon notes, this is really "intermediary liability," or (obviously enough) putting the liability for actions on an intermediary to force them to try to curb the behavior of end users. In this way, the Chinese government can claim that it doesn't censor the internet and there's no such thing as a "Great Firewall," because it doesn't exist as a single thing. It's just that the government will punish ISPs who don't block "bad stuff."

But this "intermediary liability" is a big deal, because under any common sense approach to things, you should never blame an third party/intermediary for the actions of end users. And yet, that's exactly what the entertainment industry has been pushing. One of the key components being pushed for the internet section of ACTA is the idea of expanding "secondary liability" or "contributory copyright infringement" or whatever they want to call it. In reality, it's the same intermediary liability that China uses to have ISPs censor content. The idea is that if you put the liability for file sharing on ISPs, then they will be forced to figure out ways to stop it -- just like ISPs in China are forced to create their own censorship campaigns.

And, of course, this isn't even hypothetical. We've got some real world examples. That's because much of the early language in ACTA was modeled on the "free trade" agreement that the US pressured South Korea into signing. That included such intermediary liability for ISPs when it came to copyright infringement, and guess what happened? First, the country felt it needed to start kicking people off the internet based on a "three strikes" plan, just to satisfy the treaty. Then service providers quickly started banning all sorts of activities, including any music uploads and many video uploads. After all, it's not worth it for the service providers to be liable, so they block the ability to upload all sorts of content. And, of course, with such liability there, others went even further, with some service providers even banning advertisements for any kind of website that could allow copyright infringement, because of the fear that, via such intermediary liability, they may get blamed just for allowing an advertisement that pointed to a site that could be used for copyright infringement.

When you look at the details, it's incredibly similar to the way in which China crafted its Great Firewall. Impose such secondary liability that puts the responsibility on a third party, and and watch those third parties basically lock down all sorts of additional things, just to be safe. Of course, the old school entertainment industry doesn't mind, because preventing you from communicating isn't their problem. They don't see the internet as a communications platform anyway. They're hoping it's the next broadcast medium, and clearing the decks via a Great Firewall an intermediary liability system works right into those plans. The more you look at the details, the more it looks like the entertainment industry is doing everything possible to encircle the internet to make it appear more like a broadcast entertainment medium, rather than a communications medium.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Pickle Monger (profile), Jan 20th, 2010 @ 11:48am

    Going back to the good ole times?

    Maybe I'm just prejudiced against that sort of thing because I grew up under the Soviet system, but god help us all...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2010 @ 12:07pm

    I thought ACTA was about counterfeiting?

    You mean it's not!?!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2010 @ 12:20pm

    Network Neutrality

    Of course, this isn't compatible with network neutrality so they've got to make sure that doesn't catch on either.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    DMNTD, Jan 20th, 2010 @ 12:22pm

    Well the main frame of china IS supposed to become the standard for America..you knew that right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 20th, 2010 @ 12:25pm

    Ever notice...

    How come all of the "we, the gov, are youing to F*$k you hard in the a$$ without lube" amendments are all named like "Peace Accord for 2010" or "Free Trade" or even "Free Beer"?

    Watch, the next one will be called "Cuddly Muffins" and it'll be about how everybody gets a brain implant to "mitigate" (see: censor) anti-government thoughts.

    F@#K!!

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2010 @ 12:35pm

    Re: Ever notice...

    Why are you so against cuddly muffins? Are you some kind of monster?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2010 @ 12:37pm

    Is this the equivalent of blaming the bartender, or the bar, for a patron who ends up drunk driving?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2010 @ 12:50pm

    This makes no sense. First off, China has been very lax in copyright enforcement. This is why there are separate release windows and separate DVD region codes for China.

    Essentially, the internet is a highway. But now, in building the highway, the insurance industry wants the highway to be monitored 24/7 so if an infraction or crash occurs on the highway, the Department of Transportation is responsible for reconstructing the events and providing video footage to protect the insurance industry's profits. The highway system wasn't originally built with a profit motive in mind. It was built for transportation. Much like how the internet wasn't built with a profit motive in mind, but has its roots firmly in place to facilitate communication.

    Sure, this is a problem for the entertainment industry. But instead of pushing substandard content with the expectation that it will make money, and also holding onto legacy distribution methods, they should focus more on figuring out what works and how to derive revenue from it.

    The internet is not a 'magical piggy bank'. Use your brain. If you don't, the market will walk away, and other businesses and industries will emerge that will take your place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 20th, 2010 @ 12:58pm

    Re: Ever notice...

    I am hereby introducing a new bill to ban the use of extraneous symbols to censor one's own typed or written speech. It is called the "Sad-eyed And Three-Legged Puppies And Kittens Making Faces Act".

    Vote against that shit....I dare you!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    chris (profile), Jan 20th, 2010 @ 1:35pm

    Re: Ever notice...

    How come all of the "we, the gov, are youing to F*$k you hard in the a$$ without lube" amendments are all named like "Peace Accord for 2010" or "Free Trade" or even "Free Beer"?

    war is peace. ignorance is strength. freedom is slavery.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    chris (profile), Jan 20th, 2010 @ 1:36pm

    Re:

    Is this the equivalent of blaming the bartender, or the bar, for a patron who ends up drunk driving?

    no. drunk drivers have no affect on hollywood's profits.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    chris (profile), Jan 20th, 2010 @ 1:38pm

    Re:

    The internet is not a 'magical piggy bank'. Use your brain. If you don't, the market will walk away, and other businesses and industries will emerge that will take your place.

    the internet will be a magical piggy bank once the entertainment lobbyists get done with it. it will be TV with a "BUY!" button.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 20th, 2010 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Re: Ever notice...

    I think I'd prefer a "Anarchy Internet Act"--and hopefully it actually describes what it's for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Jan 20th, 2010 @ 3:01pm

    Re:

    > Well the main frame of china IS supposed to become the
    > standard for America.

    Main frame? What does that mean?

    Are you saying that Chinese mainframe computers are going to become the standard for the American IP industry? Because that doesn't make any sense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2010 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Re:

    However, internet piracy does affect corn farmers. That must be true. It just makes sense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Mojo Bone (profile), Jan 20th, 2010 @ 4:36pm

    Re: Re:

    "the internet will be a magical piggy bank once the entertainment lobbyists get done with it. it will be TV with a "BUY!" button."






    chris FTW!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 20th, 2010 @ 5:46pm

    ACTA itself is bad enough, but here in nanny state of Australia, we are staring down the barrel of ISP-level mandatory internet filtering as well. Marry the two and it's not hard to imagine a nation-wide ban on access to torrent tracking and other filesharing services becoming a reality.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jan 21st, 2010 @ 12:54am

    I hereby issue a challenge

    ...to all the major record labels; put mt in charge of the RIAA for one year. I will attempt to make your businesses more viable, more transparent and much more profitable.

    And I will do it for half of what you're paying your current executive.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 21st, 2010 @ 7:38am

    Re:

    "it's not hard to imagine a nation-wide ban on access to torrent tracking and other filesharing services becoming a reality."

    It wont work they would have to ban encryption and do deep packet inspection. The cost would make every ISP revolt. Thats why I see the passing of ACTA as a joke that will do the same thing that the lawsuits RIAA filed here in the US did. It doesnt bode well for them in the short or long run.

    1) It will make headlines as it is used as a public education campaign-scare tactic.
    2) be totally ineffective.
    3) cause a bunch of deaths due to graduated reponse-three strikes as people cant use VOIP to phone out for help.
    4) increase the use of encyption as people hide what they are doing.
    5) bankrupt a bunch of people due to lawsuits.
    6) be a total public relations nightmare.
    7) create a bunch of applications that will allow for true annonymity on the internet as DNS, storage, and data transfer-routing are virtualized and decentralized.
    8) lead to criminal charges and no knock warrents against file sharers.
    9) lead to less and less people wanting to sign with the record labels as they become societally stigmatized.
    10) lead to systems forming online to replace the record labels.

    The end result will be the failure of the record lables. If the TV and movie studios follow in the foot steps of the record labels the same will happen to them as more competition occurs. Virtual sets, HD cameras, and video editting software will become cheaper and allow for anyone to create studio level shows on the cheap.

     

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  20.  
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    mrG, Jan 24th, 2010 @ 7:02pm

    China? Why China?

    Is there some reason you use China as the example? Why not use Canada? Canada is under the same rule-of-fear whereby the courier is responsible for what travels on their trucks, and from what the Privacy Commissioner tells me outright, in Canada, the ISPs are considered 'couriers' of packets travelling by trunk-line trucks.

    So why pick on the Chinese as if they were something special? Is it their skin colour? Their language? The low probability of offending readers or exposing rubber-hose censorship right under our noses?

    I'm just curious.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Another Anonymous, Feb 8th, 2010 @ 7:13am

    I believe the very concept of censoring ANYTHING of the internet is a spits in the face of the internet. More so, what determines the limit of what is or isn't lewd? What is copyright infringement? What deteremines what should and shouldn't be censored? Inevitably, this WILL lead to the censorship of any anti-government statement or satire that would make a man of power feel uncomfortable. We all have a right to a voice and these fascists are about to take it away. I say that the founding fathers gave us a right to use and bear weapons, and I don't just mean for hunting animals.

     

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  22.  
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    Robert, Aug 14th, 2010 @ 5:28pm

    A GAN would be nice...

    We have some nice bits of software out there, with Peer to Peer and onion networks. It'd be really nice if the proliferation of wireless technology could be leveraged with that mindset to cut our requirement for an infrastructure that could be controlled out of the equation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 12:21pm

    So I suppose that the phone company would be liable if 2 people plan a murder over the phone?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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