ACTA refuses to die. The agreement that many hailed as the start of death to much of the world’s intellectual liberties was itself brutally slaughtered by the European Union’s Parliament on July 4, 2012 (cue snare drums and fifes in America). However, it seems the coroner underestimated the resolve of ACTA’s creators, and a new threat has emerged.
CETA: ACTA’s Ticket to Slip in Unnoticed
Of the 517 members who voted on ACTA, 478 or 92% voted against it. This would seem to indicate to the agreement’s proponents that the European Union was overwhelmingly against such provisions, and to let the matter go. Instead the group had a back door planned all along: the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
Informally known as CETA, it is a trade agreement designed to strengthen the already large economic ties between Canada and European Union through free trade and increased investment. However, hidden within this treaty are provisions that were nearly copy/pasted word-for-word from ACTA. In other words, it didn’t matter if ACTA itself was rejected, as the entire content of ACTA is in CETA.
How Come People are Just Now Noticing This?
As we covered previously, unlike standard laws and policies which are done in the open, treaties like ACTA and CETA are negotiated behind closed doors as a way to institute policy laundering. By doing this, governments hope to avoid the scrutiny that normally accompanies new provisions and are able to prevent copies of the documents from going public until after the agreement is signed.
With the widespread acceptance of the Internet over the past twenty years, however, governments have had to smarten up on their practices. Thanks to an anonymous source, Michael Geist (if you don’t know who he is I suggest looking at his website or his extensive Wikipedia page) was able to obtain confirmed, leaked documents of the latest CETA revision which shows the word-for-word copying of the ACTA provisions. He also put together a detailed, side-by-side comparison of the ACTA and CETA provisions for information purposes here.
Great! Now What?
After Mr. Geist posted the comparison and a scathing report, the European Commission released an official statement to the effect that all of the ISP specific provisions have been removed. While this is a minor victory, the fact that they also refused to release a copy of the revised draft and failed to comment on the remainder of the ACTA copy-over provisions leaves doubts as to whether their statement was truthful or just something made to placate worried constituents.
In all of these happenings, one thing is for sure: The people in power seeking to destroy our liberties will not rest until they succeed. Therefore, neither can those who wish to protect our freedoms rest until the enemy is stopped. Because of our stance, we here at XDA support petitions like this one from The Council of Canadians. Fill it out, share it, and call your members of Parliament and provincial/territorial offices. For those of you in Europe, I’ve yet to see an anti-CETA petition. So sound off in the comment section below if you have one that you’d like to share with the community.
XDA does not support any agreement, law, or policy that takes away individual freedoms. Neither should you.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) was destroyed yesterday by the European Union’s Parliament by an overwhelming 478 to 39. Because of this, ACTA is now in the anti-democracy graveyard playing cards with its friends SOPA and PIPA. This is good news for the industrialized world, yet many don’t understand why. Allow me to explain.
What is ACTA?
The stated purpose of ACTA was simple: prevent copyright and patent infringing products from crossing borders and damaging legitimate businesses and industries. This included everything from prescription medication to pirated software. The agreement seemed like a great idea at the time it was announced and was lauded as being the next big step in curbing infringement.
What’s Wrong with Wanting to Curb Pirating?
Nothing is wrong with wanting to stop patent and copyright infringement. It was the methods used by the negotiating parties that were initially called into question. ACTA was a prime example of what is known as policy laundering. In essence, a country’s legislature knows that since their arguments and votes are public, it would be impossible to institute certain laws without greatly upsetting their constituents. Treaty negotiations like ACTA on the other hand, are almost universally discussed and voted on behind closed doors. Once a treaty has been ratified, it then becomes a simple matter of enforcing the agreed upon treaty and bypassing traditional institutions and safeguards.
ACTA negotiations began in 2008. They took place in many locales around the world, and it was not until three years later, in April 2011 that the initial drafts of the agreement were made public. The treaty was then signed on October 1, 2011 by the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea while the European Union held off until a full vote could be put before their parliament.
The Treaty’s Content is Still Good Right?
Where ACTA really made a lot of people angry were Sections 2, 4, and 5 of the revised draft, which outlined the civil and criminal penalties, as well as the scope of law enforcement in regards to physical and digital crimes.
Section 2 of the law outlined the civil enforcement of the law, i.e. lawsuits. The issue with this was that the copyright/patent holder had the ability to submit a claim to (and have accepted by) the judge that would basically allow the right’s holder to determine how much they receive from the defendant, as long as they have a “legitimate” means of estimation.
Section 4 outlines criminal enforcement of the treaty. Where things went wrong here was the fact that the threshold for proof against an infringing party was extraordinarly low and purposefully vague, which could allow for abuse by both the right’s holders as well as law enforcement. On top of which, it allowed for fines and imprisonment as well as the lawsuits described in Section 2.
Section 5 involves copyright and patent infringement issues in the digital realm. The biggest issue here lies within the fact that it allows right’s holders to police, sue, and bring charges against anyone who is remotely associated with pirating (in any way, shape, or form) in a way that would circumvent standard judiciary channels. This in turn hands huge amounts of worldwide policing power to large corporations who hold the most patents and/or copyrights and it negates the rights of the average citizen in member countries.
So What Happens Now?
The dangers outlined here are just some of the many that were in ACTA. Even though the European Union has struck down the agreement, (and prevented it’s member states from being signatories) many other countries, including the United States had already signed on. Only time can tell what will happen, but we here at XDA are strongly against any form of legislation or treaty that will infringe upon our users’ rights. While we do believe in following the law, we do not believe in the destruction of individual liberties.
For those of you in Europe, rejoice and breathe easier knowing that you won’t have to deal with the insanity of this treaty… for now.
ACTA, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is another bill which tramples all over your civil liberties. The Internet is having a hard time fighting off bills that threaten creativity, like PIPA and SOPA, but now something far worse has come to play.
In October 2007, the United States, the European Community, Switzerland, and Japan decided to branch together and negotiate a bill to tackle intellectual property and copyright infringement. Yesterday, all 21 states of the EU, including the UK, signed onto ACTA. As of October 1st 2011, 8 out of 11 countries had signed on, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea.
“Although the proposed treaty’s title might suggest that the agreement deals only with counterfeit physical goods (such as medicines) what little information has been made available publicly by negotiating governments about the content of the treaty makes it clear that it will have a far broader scope and in particular will deal with new tools targeting “Internet distribution and information technology” -EFF
No one really knows what’s in the ACTA agreement, so it’s unnerving why so many countries have signed. They know something we don’t, keeping us out of the equation. Witnessing the recent revolt against SOPA and PIPA, they’ve done this for a reason. Methods to prepare this bill have even led Kader Arif, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for ACTA, to resign on Friday, saying he had witnessed “never-before-seen manoeuvres” by officials preparing the treaty.
“I condemn the whole process which led to the signature of this agreement: no consultation of the civil society, lack of transparency since the beginning of negotiations, repeated delays of the signature of the text without any explanation given, reject of Parliament’s recommendations as given in several resolutions of our assembly.” -Kader Arif
The EFF have also commented on the lack of transparency from officials:
“While little information has been made available by the governments negotiating ACTA a document recently leaked to the public entitled “Discussion Paper on a Possible Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement” from an unknown source gives an indication of what content industry rightsholder groups appear to be asking for – including new legal regimes to “encourage ISPs to cooperate with right holders in the removal of infringing material” criminal measures and increased border search powers. The Discussion Paper leaves open how Internet Service Providers should be encouraged to identify and remove allegedly infringing material from the Internet.” -EFF
This is a scary concept, far greater in significance than SOPA. If in the US, please contact your senators to demand more information on ACTA and sign this petition to oppose ACTA and keep the Internet free!