Leaked Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) sparks controversy

The line between dealing with copyright piracy and infringing on civil liberties is a fine one

The line between dealing with copyright piracy and infringing on civil liberties is a fine one

The internet has started to hum with disapproval after the recent leak of sections of the secretive Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) meetings that are currently taking place.  The negotiations, which are taking place in Seoul, South Korea, are being led predominately by the United States and focus upon methods to enforce copyright and counterfeiting infringements.

The worrying aspect of the material that has been leaked, comes from the fact that the ACTA now seems to be focusing on individual internet users rather than just targetting large-scale commercial copyright infringement.  In addition to this, the manner in which it proposes to enforce the agreement seems outright draconian.

The agreement seeks to implement a ‘three strikes’ policy that ISPs must enforce on their users, meaning that after three copyright infringements occur the internet service for the individual must be terminated immediately and without review.  Such demands on the ISPs will be backed up by third-party liability regulations, that will dictate that the ISP itself will be held liable for any infringements if it does not act in the specified manner.  Remember YouTube, Facebook, MySpace?  Good luck seeing them exist for much longer with third-party liability laws in place.  The costs, both financially and in content, to ensure these services remained free of copyright violations would be astronomical.

These far-reaching legal regulations are basically being drafted in accordance to the needs of corporate vested interests, without any real concern for the effect that they may have on individual civil liberty.  The fact that such negotiations are also taking place in secret, without any public or democratic input, gives us further cause for concern.

In addition even to this, the regulations point towards a process of enforcement that presumes the accused are guilty – without any necessary recourse to evidence or fair trial.  Just by accusing somebody of copyright infringment you can have materials taken down, which is an obviously exploitable process.

At this point in time, we do need to remember that all of this information is coming from a single source, so there is certainly a need to show some caution as to the accuracy of the alleged leak.  However, there is nothing in the information that comes as any real surprise to those who have been following copyright controversies and legal battles over recent years.

This certainly gives it an air of credibility, as it is obvious that the vested interests involved have been trying to push such draconian regulations for quite some time – and if they were to succeed in doing so on a wide-scale and enforceable basis, it truly would mean the end of the internet as we know it.


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