Forget SOPA, PIPA and OPEN. ACTA is the big Enchilada
by Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
January 25, 2012
While most of the attention regarding government censorship of the Internet has been focused on the United States due to the imminent passage of the SOPA, PIPA and OPEN bills, those pieces of legislation are mostly bound to affect Americans. As we have reported previously, bills like the ones mentioned above have the power to literally disconnect the United States from the rest of the world, should the President decide illegal content from anywhere outside the country violates copyright law or any other law for that matter. As explained by Joe Lieberman, the United States president will have the power to shut down portions of the Internet in order to protect corporate intellectual property. This power has been labeled the Internet “kill switch”; and with good reason, because in reality, the president will be able to shut Americans’ access to anything he doesn’t want them to see.
But the threat of Internet censorship is larger than what happens to Americans. The creation and passage of bills like SOPA or PIPA in other developed countries has grown exponentially as the United States and the European Union support censorship measures. Not only have other countries managed to come up with similar legislation, but many first world nations have already signed a global agreement that will surrender the Internet sovereignty to multinational corporations and internet service providers that will be in charge of monitoring Internet user activity in order to censor anything deemed as an illegal transfer of information.
Enter ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. This globally reaching agreement could be equalled to NAFTA or CAFTA in the sense that it will control the transfer of products which in this case is not bananas, electronics, services and so on, but any and all information that is posted and sought on the World Wide Web. ACTA has been known publicly since 2008, but it has been in the works -in private- for much longer. In just three years, countries like the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea have already agreed to follow the regulations contained in it.
In one sense, ACTA is the globalists’ threat to the people’s fundamental right to access information and knowledge. The main issue with ACTA is that as in many other cases, only a few people know what exactly is in it. This very first global bill intended to censor the internet was created in secret. This secrecy has prompted privacy supporters to denounce ACTA as a dangerous piece of legislation. The reason for this is that ACTA was not properly reviewed by the Congresses and what legislators receive to read is an executive summary that only mentions the reach the bill has regarding copyright protection, but leaves out the other parts. More on this to come.
“ACTA is legislation laundering on an international level of what would be very difficult to get through most Parliaments,” said Stravros Lambrinidis, Member of European Parliament. That is what the makers of ACTA would want people to believe. The impossibility of passing this agreement in Congresses around the world is one of the shenanigans globalists use more often to have the people let their guard down. But even if it was true that most countries would not sign it, the fact that all developed nations agree with and sign ACTA will be enough to twist the arm of those countries that choose not to sign it. Other private property defenders have expressed their concern with the way ACTA is presented and approved. ” The European Parliament has had no representation in ACTA negotiations. Just accepting or rejecting an agreement is not an exercise of democracy as under the Lisbon Treaty,” said Zuzana Roithova, Member of European Parliament. She refers to the passage of the infamous Lisbon Treaty which was rammed through against the will of at least 51 percent of the people.
“It is extremely regrettable that democratic debate has been eliminated from talks that could have a major impact on such a fundamental freedom as free expression,” said Reporters without Borders, European Parliament Sakharov Prize Winners. “We can only assume that the final text could do great harm in developing countries and undermine the balance between the protection of intellectual property and the need to provide affordable medicines for poor people,” added Rohit Malpani, OXFAM, from a press release criticising possible impact of ACTA. “We are in danger of ending up with the worst of both worlds, pushing IP rules, which are very effective at stopping access to life-saving drugs but are very bad at stopping or preventing fake drugs,” warns Michelle Childs of Médecins Sans Frontières.
What does ACTA have to do with medications or medical attention? A lot as it turns out. Among all of the things ACTA will help control is the free circulation of medical information. Parts of ACTA mirror legislation introduced in the United States, which could ban the publication of health oriented websites. ACTA will oversee issues such as generic drugs and food patents. Once it is fully agreed upon, ACTA will enforce other globalist sponsored agreements such as Agenda 21, Codex Alimentarius and the individual government censorship bills already in place in each country, which as people may suspect are ACTA compliant. The enforcement of identically produced global legislation will put an end to independent local farming, which will turn everyone into patent-owning corporations dependent slaves. Remember Monsanto’s motto? Just as it happened with NAFTA, CAFTA, the creation of the European Union and the United Nations, the United States Federal Reserve and others, ACTA is the latest example of how corporations make use of governments, write laws and make sure that corporate-controlled Congresses around the world mandate its implementation. In two words, Corporate Fascism.
Although ACTA is being presented as a tool “to create new legal standards of intellectual property enforcement, as well as increased international cooperation, an example of which would be an increase in information sharing between signatory countries’ law enforcement agencies,” the truth is that it is an effort to further centralized Internet control. With ACTA IPS’s will be obligated to use invasive procedures to make sure no user infringes what corporations say is a violation of copyright laws. Failure to detect and denounce such breach will result in the IP and Internet user receiving massive fines, and after three warnings, individuals who are considered repetitive offenders will be sent to jail and banned from the Internet. The IP that fails to stop the supposed violation of corporate interests will be taken off the air. The outrageous part of this is that the party -corporation- whose property was supposedly used without permission doesn’t even have to prove that the user or the IP violated its intellectual property. It is enough to make three accusations.
As it has happened in most countries that signed ACTA, in the United States the President has issued an executive order to keep negotiations concerning Internet control legislation secret. Barack Obama has cited national security concerns. According to Michael Gist’s blog, as well as leaked documents from the agreement, the ACTA global legislation has seven main sections:
Paragraph 1 – General obligations. These focus on “effective enforcement procedures” with expeditious remedies that deter further infringement. The wording is similar to TRIPs Article 41, however, the EU notes that unlike the international treaty provisions, there is no statement that procedures shall be fair, equitable, and/or proportionate. In other words, it seeks to remove some of the balance in the earlier treaties.
Paragraph 2 – Third party liability. The third party liability provisions focus on copyright, though the EU notes that it could (should) be extended to trademark and perhaps other IP infringement. The goal of this section is to create an international minimum harmonization regarding the issue of what is called in some Member States “contributory copyright infringement”. The U.S. proposal would include “inducement” into the standard, something established in the U.S. Grokster case, but not found in many other countries. This would result in a huge change in domestic law in many countries (including Canada) as the EU notes it goes beyond current eu law.
Paragraph 3 – Limitations on 3rd Party Liability. This section spells out how an ISP may qualify for a safe harbour from the liability established in the earlier section. These include an exemption for technical processes such as caching. As reported earlier, ACTA would establish a required notice-and-takedown system, which goes beyond Canadian law (and beyond current EU law). Moreover, ACTA clearly envisions opening the door to a three-strikes and you’re out model, as the EU document states: EU understands that footnote 6 provides for an example of a reasonable policy to address the unauthorized storage or transmission of protected materials. However, the issue of termination of subscriptions and accounts has been subject to much debate in several Member States. Furthermore, the issue of whether a subscription or an account may be terminated without prior court decision is still subject to negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of Telecoms Ministers regarding the Telecoms Package.
Paragraph 4 – Anti-circumvention Provisions. ACTA would require civil and criminal penalties associated with anti-circumvention provisions (legal protection for digital locks). The EU notes that this goes beyond the requirements of the WIPO Internet treaties and beyond current EU law which “leaves a reasonable margin of discretion to Member States.” The EU also notes that there is no link between the anti-circumvention provisions and copyright exceptions. The U.S. proposal also requires the anti-circumvention provisions to apply to TPMs that merely protect access to a work (rather than reproduction or making available). This would again go beyond current EU law to include protection against circumventing technologies like region coding on DVDs. From a Canadian perspective, none of this is currently domestic law. As previously speculated, the clear intent is to establish a Global DMCA.
Paragraph 5 – Civil and Criminal Enforcement of Anti-Circumvention. This section requires both civil and criminal provisions for the anti-circumvention rules, something not found in the WIPO Internet treaties. The anti-circumvention provisions are also designed to stop countries from establishing interoperability requirements (ie. the ability for consumers to play purchased music on different devices). The EU notes that this not consistent with its law, which states “Compatibility and interoperability of the different systems should be encouraged.” Of course, might reasonable ask why such a provision is even in ACTA.
Paragraph 6 – Rights Management Information protection. This section includes similar criminal and civil requirements for rights management information.
Paragraph 7 – Limitations to Rights Management Information protection. In summary, the EU analysis confirms the earlier leak (though the Internet chapter has seven sections, rather than five). The fears about the U.S. intent with respect to ACTA are confirmed – extending the WIPO Internet treaties, creating a Global DMCA, promoting a three-strikes and you’re out model, even stopping efforts to create interoperability mandates. ACTA would render current Canadian copyright law virtually unrecognizable as the required changes go far beyond our current rules (and even those contemplated in prior reform bills). This begs the question of whether the Department of Foreign Affairs negotiation mandate letter really goes this far given the domestic changes that would be required. This latest leak also reinforces the need for all governments to come clean – releasing both the ACTA text and government analysis of the treaty should be a condition of any further participation in the talks.
If you don’t find any of these sections shocking, by all means read the full version -as far as we know- of the ACTA agreement here. And remember, this is what we know so far. There is probably more than double the details in the parts that have not been revealed or leaked. You can also read the comments on the US proposal on the Requirements to Enforce Intellectual Property Rights, as they now like to call worldwide Internet censorship.
As it happened with pieces of legislation brought up to Congress in the US, ACTA is very dangerous due to the vague way in which many of its rules are written. Vague laws usually mean wide-open interpretations that fit most cases under the same umbrella. In other words, accusations can be made up on the go, because the rules can be interpreted as the corporations and the governments desire. Governments can implement limitless ways to enforce what is so vaguely written.
Although respecting private property is an ideal goal, in this case, people cannot afford to let the medicine be worse than the disease. Remember, this is a movement organized by global corporations who are demanding that their ownership of mostly digital products be respected while violating our individual right to have a free, uncensored Internet. I would suggest readers to call Congress wherever in the world they are, but as it turns out, most congressmen and congreswomen are bought and paid for by the same big corporations that are behind ACTA. Encourage your ISP and other Internet service companies in your country to unite and say no to ACTA the same way some companies came together against SOPA and PIPA a few days ago. It is only the strength of individuals united to fight ACTA what will prevent the spread of corporate control of the Internet. If you live in country where ACTA has been already adopted, it is not too late to act. Organize and request that this globalist-sponsored takeover of the Internet be repealed.