ACTA - the latest threat to internet freedom, just signed by the EU

Yesterday the European Union, the UK and over 20 other countries signed the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). ACTA is an international treaty, disguised as a trade agreement, whose purpose is to increase and harmonise copyright and trademark enforcement. Many of the goals of ACTA are similar to SOPA and PIPA - proposed laws which the US congress recently abandoned following a huge outcry. ACTA is, if anything, even more objectionable.

It is objectionable because of the process it has followed - secret negotiations, conducted without democratic oversight, a process so underhand it led to official criticism from the European Parliament #1">[1] and the resignation of the Parliament's rapporteur in disgust #2">[2]. It is yet another example of the power of corporate lobby groups, who buy influence starting with the laughably corrupt US political body, and then foist extremist laws on the rest of the world.

It is objectionable in its content, as an assault on civil liberties. It is likely to require unprecedented levels of surveillance of ordinary Internet users by ISPs #3">[3]#4">[4]. It insists that copyright infringement become a criminal offence in a worryingly wide range of situations.#5">[5] It provides for massively disproportionate penalties, including mandatory imprisonment. Anyone who has followed settlements in copyright lawsuits over the past 10 years will find this hard to believe, but it allows rights-holders to make up even more astronomical figures when demanding "compensation" #6">[6].

The extremist position of ACTA will make the Internet fraught with danger for ordinary users. For example, if a blogger innocently links to another website, and that website, without their knowledge, infringes copyright in some way, they may well face criminal charges and prison time for "aiding and abetting" copyright infringement. For a link.

The provisions on Digital Rights Management ("DRM") are so extreme as to be laughable. ACTA continues to demand that attempts to circumvent DRM be criminal offences, meaning that blind people could face jail time for attempting to read e-books using text-to-speech, for example #7">[7]. But new provisions mean that any tampering with information that identifies "the work, its author(s), producer(s) or right owners" also becomes an offence, so merely renaming a file could become illegal.

Enough is enough. The music, film and fashion industries make more money every year. Even if you assume that copyright must be enforced in all cases, that Something Must Be Done -- just because ACTA is "something" does not mean we should do it. The way it was created is unacceptable, its content is destructive and it is against the public interest. The pirate party and I will do everything we can to stop it, and we urge others to join the campaign against ACTA #8">[8]#9">[9]. We do not have to stand for this.

[1] Objections to ACTA
[2] European official quits / Kader-arif announcement (fr)
[3] FFII on fundamental rights
[4] EDRI acta pt 1
[5] EDRI acta pt 2
[6] FFII acta analysis
[7] RNZFB submission
[8] ORG
[9] Avaaz campaign

Loz Kaye
Party Leader
Pirate Party UK

Friday, 27 January, 2012 - 13:45
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+44 (0) 161 987 7880

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