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.