ACTA and The Internet

The latest attempt at censoring the internet has now met with fierce resistance from Europe. Widespread protests have already been seen in Poland and on February 11th a Europe wide protest against ACTA is expected. ACTA began it’s existence in the secrecy of backroom meetings, it was only during a leaked version of the agreement that ACTA came into public sight. Many have been of the opinion that ACTA has largely been partly a result of lobbying by the entertainment industry and the final version of the already signed treaty has received a great reception from the MPAA. Something must be wrong then.

I’m not entirely against ACTA, some of it’s ideas are legitimate and maybe necessary in the global market place. But it’s bad parts would be terrible for the internet and the treaty has far to many potential consequences. Issues have been brought up about it limiting the ability of third world countries to manufacture generic drugs, unfair criminal proceeding’s against unintentional copyright infringers are a potential consequences of this bill. These are very concerning but this article is going to limit it’s scope and try determine it’s potential impact on the internet.

The digital provisions are draconian, it makes circumventing DRM illegal and tools which help circumvent these measures as illegal. Unlocking your I-Phone is illegal under these measures. Much like bill C-11 it will limit the ability to consume content. DVD’s use DRM, games use DRM, computer programs use DRM. And open-source programs would find themselves incredibly limited by this measure. VLC might even be illegal under these provisions.

When the first copy of ACTA was leaked, it was widely speculated that it would require the signer’s to implement some sort of three strike rule, which forces ISP’s to disconnect alleged infingers from the internet. In the final version of the treaty this policy was no where to be found.  That doesn’t mean,  it will not return in some other form though. ACTA creates a  committee which is free to pass more amendments, the treaty does not limit what those amendments would require. The three strikes law could still be implemented at another date, this is what makes the treaty so concerning, once the treaty is passed it can continue to pass more amendments. It would act as a body to press countries into laws that they might not agree with. Anti-piracy measures would almost guaranteed become more draconian in Canada. Just because the document does not explicitly mention internet piracy does not mean it is not one of the biggest reasons for passing ACTA.

The European Commission’s says “ACTA ensures people everywhere can continue to share non-pirated material and information on the web”. What is concerning is what that will mean for ‘pirated-material’. Free-flow of information is not possible if your blocking it, especially when that information is blocked by a treaty that’s been created with little transparency and approved by heavily lobbied bureaucrats.

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