Anti-Piracy Treaty: Global DMCA, “Three-Strikes”

Secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) discussions conclude without any public input, and leaked details include a laundry list of entertainment industry demands.

The latest round of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations wrapped up yesterday in Seoul, South Korea and by all indications it has little to do with combating counterfeit goods and everything to do with forcing ISPs to become copyright cops.

Instead of focusing on customs procedures and enforcement to fight large scale commercial piracy it has delved into the area of noncommercial illegal file-sharing.

By all accounts it’s bad – very bad.

First, ISPs would have to proactively filter copyrighted material from their networks and hand over the names of those accused of illegal file-sharing.

Second, ISPs, in order to benefit from safe harbor provisions, would have to disconnect the Internet connections of illegal file-sharers for up to a year. Copyright holders would be able to sue those ISPS that fail to stop customers from illegal file-sharing.

Third, it will force countries to prohibit circumventing DRM or the manufacture of traffic of devices that allow people to do so.

Fourth, it would create a “broad” global notice-and-takedown regime where ISPs will be forced to remove copyrighted material without first weighing evidence to the contrary.

“Big music and movie interests, and other content producers, are conducting a global campaign to put their interests ahead of citizens’ rights to use the Internet and to not be subject to unreasonable and arbitrary penalties that do nothing for the public interest,” says Jordan carter, Deputy Executive Director of InternetNZ, a New Zealand-based group that promotes a free and open Internet.

He says that govt’s like his ought to focus on the real economic problems caused by commercial piracy rather trying to warp the Internet and turn into a business arm of the entertainment industry.

Worse still, it’s all being done in secret with only the entertainment industry having full access to the treaty.

It’s literally Hollywood’s dream come true.

“This is not about free trade at all,” writes Techdirt’s Michael Masnick. “This is an entertainment industry-written bill designed to recreate the internet in its image — as a broadcasting platform, rather than one used for user-generated content and communication.”

The ACTA, again, seems to have very little to do about “anti-counterfeiting” or trade and everything to do about protecting the deep-pocketed American entertainment industry. It does nothing to address the heart of the matter, which is it’s refusal to adapt to the realties of digital distribution world.

Also troubling is the secretive nature of a treaty with such broad legal implications being conducted in private under the pretext of trade negotiations.

In negotiating agreements focusing on traditional trade matters such as tariffs and trade barriers, confidentiality regarding some negotiating positions may be appropriate,” reads a letter addressed to President Obama and signed by a number of civil rights and public interest groups. “But ACTA aims to set international legal norms, potentially driving changes to substantive intellectual property legal regimes on an international basis. Attempts to force a multilateral intellectual property agreement through trade processes unsuited for it does a disservice to citizens, public policy, and the USTR alike.”

Precisely. Since when did we begin allowing laws to be debated behind closed doors?

Intellectual property laws need to maintain a careful balance between the rights of copyright holders and the rights of the public to access and use content they create. What the ACTA proposes would create a draconian regime that too heavily favors copyright holders, risking society’s very culture in the process.

Stay tuned.

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