ACTA Released, Only Very Slightly Less Awful Than Expected

from the debating-a-global-copyright-nanny-state dept

After fighting every step of the way to keep the ACTA secret, the USTR last week disengenuously proclaimed that it was finally time to make the international agreement public — to "help the process of reaching a final agreement." Of course this proclamation of transparency and cooperation comes only after much of the agreement had been hashed out without substantive public input, after the European Parliament voted 633-to-13 to demand the release of ACTA’s text, and after most of the agreement had already leaked to the press. Today the European Union finally released the full agreement (pdf) — as well as a statement by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht insisting that the release proves ACTA concerns have been unfounded (shockingly it turns out that’s not true).

Most of what’s in the agreement isn’t a surprise given the leaks, and while the ACTA remains a bevy of awful policies, there are a few minor changes to degrees of said awfulness. While the leaked versions of the ACTA didn’t explicity mandate ISP "three strikes" provisions, they did threaten to take away ISP safe harbor protections if ISPs didn’t agree to police copyright, with the only real example of acceptable behavior being — to employ three strikes provisions. This freshly-released version of the agreement gets rid of that language, instead simply insisting that ISPs can only retain safe harbor protections by adopting a "takedown" policy that will "address the unauthorized storage or transmission of materials protected by copyright."

That’s of course simply taking our notoriously unreliable DMCA letter warning process and exporting it to Canada and elsewhere. Here in the States several major ISPs are already voluntarily taking this idea one step further — by threatening users with disconnection for trading copyrighted files via BitTorrent (in some cases these threats, which no ISP is willing to transparently discuss, have been found to be a bluff). Some new language in the agreement also appears to take aim at softening European law, allowing countries to "terminate or prevent an infringement" and pass legislation "governing the removal or disabling of access to information." Meanwhile, Michael Geist notes that three strikes may not be dead yet given countries still need to hash out their differences:

"However, that does not mean that three strikes has disappeared from the draft entirely. The U.S. proposal for ISP liability is one of three options currently being considered. The European option preserves, but does not require, three strikes . . . The EU will argue this is consistent with the law in a few of its member states. If the approach is adopted, it will clearly keep three strikes on the table and could be used in other ACTA member countries to encourage its adoption."

Most of the language that critics have grown familiar with (making the bypassing of copy protection illegal even in cases of fair use, making copies of a large quality of content illegal even if no money is exchanged, mandating that ISPs become copyright nannies) remain at the heart of the ACTA. The agreement’s central thrust continues to be to foist clearly dysfunctional, unreliable, and draconian U.S. DMCA-style copyright enforcement policies upon other countries. Other than that? Sure, ACTA concerns are "unfounded" with the release of this latest draft. Of course it can still get better (or worse) in time.

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Comments on “ACTA Released, Only Very Slightly Less Awful Than Expected”

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Lance (profile) says:

Speaking of pitch forks...

In my opinion, the scariest thing about this is not necessarily how it erodes our freedom to exchange information. I am at least as worried about how this seems like the first steps towards the “one world government”.

Now, before you shout me down as some wild conspiracy theorist, take a look at what is happening here. For the first time that I am aware of, the major governments/economies are all lining up behind a central set of ideas. The central idea in this case is that the flow of information must be able to be controlled. It is first proposed (disguised) as a move to protect the copyright holders, thus securing the cooperation of the groups that could (and in the old days would) organize dissent to this erosion of rights. I wonder, do the entertainment industries realize that they are possibly playing the dupes for the governments? Will they be surprised when the governments come to take away their rights?

To control the people, governments first control the flow of information. ACTA is definitely aimed at helping the governments accomplish that goal.

JJ says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

> we only know the document out there isnt entirely the same as what was leaked.

No one expected it to be the exact same thing as what leaked. What leaked was what came out of the previous negotiations (in Mexico). What was released was what came out of the latest round of negotiations (in New Zealand) last week. They spent 3 days changing the document, so everyone knew it would be different.

What the release showed, however, was that the leak *was* accurate (exactly the opposite of what you seem to be implying), in that most of the text was identical, and the only changes are the changes that were made at the NZ negotiations.

It seems like a rather obvious point, so I’m confused as to why the AC is confused by this. The leaks were clearly legit.

vanessa says:

Re: Re: It's not really a "trade agreement"

“remember this isn’t a bill, it is a trade agreement”…


Trade agreement: any contractual arrangement between states concerning their trade relationships. For most countries international trade is regulated by unilateral barriers of several types, including tariffs, nontariff barriers, and outright prohibitions. Trade agreements are one way to reduce these barriers, thereby opening all parties to the benefits of increased trade.

There’s nothing in ACTA about tariffs or reducing trade barriers. It has everything to do with classifying teenagers who happen to copy music for their iPods with hard core criminals who create counterfeit handbags or shoes of golf clubs or medicines etc. for profit.

Paul says:

If this thing was sooo great they wouldn’t of kept it secret for years and then released it at the last second then call it transparent. We might as well make a deal with China because all the software they use to censor the internet was made in the U.S.; I wouldn’t be surprised if it nationalized ISPs with Obama’s “net neutrality” plans.. U.S. has already dropped to #17th for promoting democracy and this won’t help either. I guess the media never heard of Obama’s promise of net neutrality. Let’s not take it laying down; go to or

indy says:

the beauty of it

The beauty of all this is natural selectiion is active and in use here.

People that understand technology, know that these acts do nothing to protect content, they only challenge us to make it more free.

In April, 2010, we have more methods of attaining media free of ownership controls than ever before. That line will only continue upwards the harder they push..

Fun times

Anonymous Coward says:

The thing to remember if you are in the USA is that treaties PREVAIL over domestic law. Thus, all those prior court decisions in favour of the consumers no longer apply. A treaty can thus be used as a way for the government and its business partners to circumvent precedents from court cases.

Sure, people talk about fair use, but liberal usage came about as due to a precedent from a court case. After ACTA is ratified, that liberal fair use precedent no longer is valid. The right of the consumer to have a backup copy will also be lost as that was also a precedent created from a court case. Limited forms of reverse engineering may also disappear as they were set by court precedent. Thus, things like the Ragnarok Online MMORPG eAthena emulator would be illegal (it currently is legal) if Gravity reported it.

ACTA uses the “imminent” concept which isn’t really a thought crime. It means that sites creating imminent situations of copyright infringement would also be illegal. Thus torrent search sites (which don’t even host a tracker) would also be illegal as they foster _imminent_ conditions leading to copyright infringment.

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