What you’re about to read is not something cooked up by some whacko group of conspiracy theorists.
Agents from countries around the world — the U.S., the U.K., the EU, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Mexico, Morocco and, yes, Canada — are secretly drafting the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
Despite the cone of silence demanded by the Obama administration for “national security” reasons, some details on ACTA have leaked out.
• ISPs will be turned into copyright cops and be required by law to filter out anything they think might be pirated material. This will mean monitoring sites that offer user-created material. Given the enormity and complexity of that requirement, consider the chill that will cast over music sites, even perfectly legal ones. Could many of them be forced out of business? What about bands who give away music?
• If you’re accused three times (just accused, not convicted) by your ISP of using their pipes for illegally downloading copyrighted material like music, your household will be banned from the Internet for a year and forced to pay a fine. Little Susie thrice caught with her hand in the BitTorrent jar? The whole family will suffer.
• Want to make a back-up copy of that DVD you bought by bypassing its copy-protection scheme? All DRM cracking — even for legal reasons — will be illegal.
• Want to use identity-blocking software to maintain online anonymity? Not anymore you won’t.
• But I saved the best for last. Customs officers of signatory countries will have the right to force you to prove that all the data on your iPod or laptop was acquired legally. If Charlie the border guard suspects that even one of the music files on your Nano was obtained illegally, welcome to the world of search and seizure without the benefit of a lawyer. And given that Canada is on America’s “priority watch list” because they think we’re pirates on the magnitude of China, Russia and Indonesia, I’m nervous.
Who’s behind this? We’re not sure. Canadian record labels were “consulted” but haven’t been involved in the final negotiations.
Bottom line is that ACTA could be in place by 2010 and you won’t be able to do a damn thing about it. Federal trade agreements don’t require parliamentary approval. One signature from the appropriate government representative and it’s the law.