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Global: Concerns About Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)

The last meeting of negotiations for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has provoked the protest of online communities against both its content and the circumstances of their negotiations. The main point of the agreement, which currently involves more than 11 countries, is to deal directly with the piracy on Internet through the construction of a legal framework that will strengthen the protection of the intellectual property rights in each country.

Those behind the agreement cite the need to combat all forms of piracy of intellectual property. Twitter user Juan José Burciaga (@jjbfigueroa) agrees with the basic reasons for an agreement, but not at all costs.

La piratería es un cancer contra el cual debemos de luchar, pero no pisoteando las garantias individuales de las personas #ACTA #OPENACTA

Piracy is a cancer that we all must struggle against, but not stepping over the individual rights of the people #ACTA #OPENACTA

With this, many users are worried about whether their user data will remain private if Internet Service Providers (ISP) are forced to provide that information, and whether the penalties would be too harsh. In addition, much has been said about the way that negotiations have been carried out, since the agenda and the advances of each meeting have been regulated under confidentiality clauses.

Current countries involved in the negotiations include Australia, Canada, members of the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States. Recently, a leaked document revealed details of the enforcement system to be implemented in several of them: anti-circumvention tools beyond the DMCA, take down notices, a liability scheme for Internet Service Providers and the three strikes rule that will allow any service provider to disconnect the user from the Internet.

Calls for Greater Transparency

Michael Geist, professor of the University of Ottawa and one of the leaders against ACTA, offered an unofficial summary of the seventh meeting, which took part during the last days of January in Guadalajara, Mexico and the stances of some countries regarding transparency. You can follow further discussions on ACTA by Prof Geist by subscribing to his RSS on ACTA.

During the seventh meeting, many from the Mexican online community protested in Twitter under the hashtags #Acta and #openActa, demanding ACTA to make the agenda public and the documents of the agreement available for public scrutiny.

Photo by Neto González. Used following a Creative Commons license. Taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/netogonzalez/4270933008/

Photo by Neto González. Used following a Creative Commons license. Taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/netogonzalez/4270933008/

After the movement of #InternetNecesario that defended the Internet from being taxed by the Mexican government, the dialogue between Twitter users and authorities was more direct, and it included participants such as the president of the Science and Technology Commission of the Senate, Javier Castellón, who appealed through Twitter the need of transparency of the agreement [es], as the negotiations were held in his country:

Informo al grupo de las negociaciones de ACTA y de la demanda de mayor transparencia e informacion al senado. Manifiestan interes

I inform the group of the ACTA negotiations and of the demand for an increase in transparency and information for the Senate. They are interested.

An important part of the protest was channeled through Open Acta [es], both website [es] and Twitter [es], which has the objective of making public the documents of the agreement [es] “so a real public and democratic discussion about its content and its reach can be begin.” It started its activity 2 years ago when the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property [es] (IMPI, in Spanish) regarding ACTA [es] announced that it would join to the ACTA negotiations by asking citizens to send their suggestions to the agreement.

One citizen who tried to give her input was Twitter user, Geraldine Juárez, representative from the civil organization Mexican Pirate Party [es] and known in Twitter as Miss Pirata (now offline), , who shared a story about how she tried to become involved through contributing her input to the IMPI. She wrote about the meeting with the IMPI and how she protested by abruptly leaving when she was asked not to tweet about the meeting:

Me salí, enojada sí. Pero también me quedó claro que esto es un asunto serio en el cuál la autoridad apoya a la industria públicamente y que no esta dispuesta a ceder por una ciudadana con una postura que disiente completamente, no solo en cuanto al proceso de negociación del ACTA, sino de la penosa injerencia de la industria del entretenimiento en para controlar la libertad de mi país y en mi mundo: Internet.

Yes, I left angry. But it was also clear that this is a serious matter where authorities openly support industry, but it is not willing to concede to opposing approaches from citizens, not only in the negotiation process of ACTA, but the shameful interference of the entertainment industry in order to control the liberty of my country and my world: Internet.

For the seventh meeting, Open Acta called for emails to the Senate [es] to “demand transparency, rights and liberties and respect to the fundamental principle of the web.”

Possible New Legal Frameworks

There are other concerns about the agreement. Alejandro Pisanty, one of the leaders of the #InternetNecesario movement, commented on his blog about the repercussions of ACTA [es] on legal structures in each of the countries:

En lo que se sabe, de manera parcial, extraoficial e informal, hay bases para temer que ACTA pueda llevar a la necesidad de que algunos países creen legislación nueva (por ejemplo, un país puede tener que crear legislación, ahora inexistente allí, que permita la persecución de la piratería como un delito, persecución ex-officio cuando ahora sólo es mediante acusación), a aplicaciones draconianas de la legislación existente, a la supresión o debilitamiento de la presunción de inocencia, y a la creación de un ambiente poco conducente al acceso al conocimiento, a compartirlo y a la creación colectiva de nuevos arte, ciencia, reflexión y conocimiento. No es posible en este momento confirmar o desmentir con base en documentos oficiales que esto ocurra, ni lo contrario. El tema requiere vigilancia constante.

What it is known, partially, unofficially and informally, that there are reasons to fear that ACTA might lead countries in the need to create new legislation (an example, a country might have to create a legislation, now nonexistent, that allow the prosecution of piracy as a crime, ex-officio prosecution, although currently that can happen only through an accusation), to draconian exercises of the existent legislation, to the elimination or weakening of the presumption of innocence, and to the formation of an environment that does not facilitate access to knowledge, to sharing, and to the collective creativity of new types of art, science, reflection and knowledge. It is not possible in this moment to confirm or deny with official documents that this could happen nor the opposite. The subject needs constant surveillance.

Protection of User Data and Harsh Penalties

Another subject of discussion was the access to sensitive information of Internet users, as pointed out by one of the official documents leaked. However, the AMIPCI publicly rejected [es] any chance of forcing the Internet service providers to share private user data about those users suspected of illegal activities.

There are also reports that there is a proposal to implement a three strikes policy for any user that engages in illegal file sharing. The penalty for this is disconnection from their internet service. Cory Doctorow, blogger and journalist, argues in this video (available in English, French and Italian) that the Internet is too central to our lives to be taken away for three accusations of copyright infringement, like a death penalty.

The eighth meeting for negotiations will be held on New Zealand, in April 2010. Different organizations like EFF, Reporters without borders and IP Watch, are concerned with the future of the Net, the lack of transparency and openness that should be implemented by exemplary democracies in the world like the countries involved in the negotiations. Furthermore, citizens are demanding their authorities transparency and access to the negotiation and a public consultation to have a word on it by organizing meetings in different locations, blogging-twitting in different languages, and sharing documents and concerns via the web.

Renata Avila contributed to the article

6 comments

  • It is always tricky when seeking to establish a legal framework across state lines. The key to this is creating the necessary balance between free expression and protection of intellectual property interests. The current structure is not tenuous because it does not strike that balance. The development of some collective legal framework is necessary in this regard.

  • […] for not allowing their citizens have proper access to content. We can see examples of this in the ACTA discussions, laws for punishing filesharing and people’s actions on the web, as well as many other […]

  • Vanessa

    This will pave the way for US style copyright infringement enforcement to sneak into Europe. This is dangerous because if signed the EU will lose the ability to make its own IP/Copyright laws. It will open the doors to American companies to accuse and sue just about everyone in Europe (those most effected will be parents with children between the ages of 14 and 24). Such children (young adults) who share music files with their friends will be thrown into the same boat as those who are members of organised crime counterfeiting operations.

    Something like this was bound to happen – it always occurs after a economic downturn. Step one is protectionism, then it’s usually followed by a war. This is all about America trying to claw whatever cash it can from the rest of the world for the “creative works” (and I use that term loosely here) being churned out of a handful of studios. At the same time, it will make it very difficult for new players to use the Internet to promote themselves because they will first have to pass the new Internet gatekeepers.

    Democracy is the first victim. Here in the EU a total of 27 members of parliament have given themselves a mandate to negotiate ACTA in secret on behalf of 500 million or so EU citizens. This contravenes the various articles within the Lisbon Treaty, and personally I can’t understand why disciplinary action is taken against those responsible.

    Piracy is like a cancer, and yes, we should carve it out of society. No-one is disagreeing with this (personally I encourage my kids to read books and get involved in sports instead of being brainwashed by the tube). I certainly don’t believe something this important should be negotiated in secret, and I’m not the only one here in Europe:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EGfv6U8Gsk

  • The only reason ACTA can attract radically differing opinions from indisputably educated and intelligent people, is that it is based on the philosophy of a compromise, a balance of interests between creators and the public.

    In my new article, “ACTA: The Hidden Why” at http://mincov.com/articles/index.php/fullarticle/acta_the_hidden_why/ (http://bit.ly/aoa6Do), I explain why the only way to deal with mass violation of intellectual property rights on the Internet without creating a coercive mechanism of oppression, is to state clearly at the outset that intellectual property is being protected because no one has a right to use the results of another’s creative labour, other than on terms put forward by the creator or the subsequent copyright owner who voluntarily purchases said rights from the creator. It has nothing to do with whether the society benefits from such protection. Appeasement and compromise may temporarily create a “balance”, but what this balance effectively does is that it subjects individual rights of one group of people to some undefinable “common good”. It is only a matter of time until an elected or self-proclaimed representative of the interests of the whole society will make a case that, instead of vesting in authors exclusive rights to their works, the common good will be best served by nationalizing all works of art and imprisoning those who disagree.

  • […] the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement Unconstitutional? The Volokh Conspiracy, March 26, 2010 Concerns about Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) Global Voices, February 25, 2020 Let’s act on ACTA before it’s too late Linux Journal, […]

  • gianfranco calabretta

    maybe you can limited internet……..but….you can not cut my hands

    so I calling everybody to get up and GRAFFITI THE STREETS…..with the information they will take out from internet

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