If you want to understand why we're so troubled by the ACTA treaty that many nations are working on in secret
, we just need to look at a story highlighted recently at Boing Boing
about an American woman who was detained for a while at the US-Canadian border
because she had a drawing of an SUV. The customs officials accused her of being an industrial spy and copyright infringer. In actuality, she's a professor and artist, who was doing an art project involving an SUV.
Of course, what the ACTA treaty would do is give customs officials and border guards even broader
authority and a mandate to try to "stop copyright infringement" at the border. It would open people up to inspections for all sorts of things, from computers to personal devices -- and if you thought a random drawing could get someone detained before, just imagine what happens after ACTA is put in place.
The most ridiculous part, of course, is that this really has nothing to do with what the border patrol should
be focused on: which is keeping dangerous people or things out of the country. Copyright infringement is meaningless
at the border. Infringement happens across borders all the time online. Stopping it physically at the border makes no sense. If someone wants infringement to cross the border, they'll just send it online, rather than carry it on their body. And, until customs and border patrol starts scanning every IP packet
at the border, it's a total waste of time and effort to ask border patrol officials to search for copyright infringement. It takes their energy and attention away from the real task at hand of keeping dangerous people out.