Back in November, I wrote about ACTA, the secret anti-counterfeiting trademark agreement involving Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the EU and nine other countries. Representatives have been meeting behind closed doors for two years to hammer out a treaty that will inevitably affect every single person on the Internet.
Yet there has been almost zero transparency. None of the draft texts have been made public and those outside the inner circle are bound by tough non-disclosure agreements.
This doesn’t mean there haven’t been some leaks.
Aside from measures to fight counterfeiting, there have been discussions about a worldwide “three strikes” rule. Accused (not caught, proven or convicted) of file-sharing music three times by an aggrieved rights holder, and you’re banned from the Internet. For life.
Internet service providers and telecoms would be liable for copyright infringements by their users. To avoid prosecution, that means they’ll have to find some way of sniffing through all the data — YOUR data — that passes through their pipes. And even though you may have a legitimate right to, say, ship a music file from point A to point B, there’s the potential for red flags at the ISP. Accused three times (not caught, proven or convicted) and you’re done. Not just with your current ISP, either. They’ll be required by international law to publish your name to an Internet no-fly list that will prevent you from ever having an Internet account in your name ever again.
And it gets better. Within the document is a second called Border Measures. There’s the real possibility that some border guard will have the power to make you prove all those music files on that iPhone in your pocket are, in fact, not pirated. Can’t do it? Bye-bye, iPhone. Oh, and you could be charged and fined.
This is more than just file-sharing for stopping fake Louis Vuitton bags. It’s about privacy, civil liberties, and legitimate use of the Internet for commerce and innovation.
The seventh round of negotiations is underway in Mexico — secretly, of course, partly because U.S. President Barack Obama has declared this an issue of national security. Same thing for the next round in April in New Zealand.
And because this is an international treaty, it’ll just be rubber-stamped into law. No public debate.
Be informed. Read what the Electronic Frontier Foundations says at eff.org/issues/acta.