Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement on the rise

Last week several major online companies blacked out parts or all of their websites in response to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) being considered by the United States Congress. The response to the blackouts was strong and several Congressmen and Senators changed their stances on the issue due to the enormous public pressure. However, at the same time that The United States is considering legislation to regulate the internet, an international treaty is set to be signed that would create international restrictions similar to the ones proposed by SOPA and PIPA.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been a work in progress and since 2008 and the language in the treaty was finalized in April of 2011. ACTA is much larger in scope than the US Bills because it deals with all forms of counterfeiting, not just online piracy. However, the agreement includes many of the same provisions and ideas that made SOPA and PIPA so objectionable. ACTA holds anyone who contributes to piracy responsible for that piracy. Critics have argued that websites with user generated content are now responsible for making sure that nothing illegal is posted. This is a large burden when you consider that the largest of these websites generate millions of user posts per day.

Critics are also concerned about the language that the agreement uses. The full One of their largest concerns is the following from excerpt from Article 10.
“Each Party shall further provide that its judicial authorities have the authority to
order that materials and implements, the predominant use of which has been in the
manufacture or creation of such infringing goods, be, without undue delay and without
compensation of any sort, destroyed or disposed of outside the channels of commerce in
such a manner as to minimize the risks of further infringements.”
They think that this could be used to shutdown any site with infringing material and contend it has no checks and balances on how it would be applied.

As more and more countries prepare to sign the treaty, protests are expected. Just today, Poland saw large protests in response to the announcement that their Prime Minister is expected to sign the treaty tomorrow. Poland will join the growing list of countries that have already signed the treaty, a list which as of this post includes Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the United States. Many countries in the European Union are expected to sign the treaty in the coming months, whether they face the resistance seen in Poland remains to be seen.

ACTA full text:

BBC Article on ACTA protests:

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