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.

Filed Under: , , , , , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “The Similarity Between ACTA And Chinese Internet Censorship”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

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.


Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: 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.

mrG (profile) says:

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.

Another Anonymous says:

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.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »