Exploring the ACTA pt.3; The Silent Hands

The U.S. Government claims that ACTA is needed to, “combat the proliferation of counterfeit and pirated goods…”. OK, that sounds like a legitimate concern, but the next part of that sentence seems extreme, “which, undermines legitimate trade and the sustainable development of the world economy”. Illegally downloaded mp3 files hinder the development of the world economy, really? I call baloney on that last charge.

So, are governments coming up with ACTA on their own? No.

We can agree that rights holders are losing money and thus illegal downloads should be dealt with, reasonably. Maybe both sides of the ideally balanced copyright equation; the rights holders and the consumers, can come together and work it out. Nope, ACTA is a definitively one sided agreement in favor of rights holders. In fact the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and others sent a letter to Congress encouraging their efforts.

The RIAA also submitted a wishlist of “Enforcement Best Practices” to the USTR which amongst other things states,

2. Establish appropriate rules regarding liability of service/content providers:
(a) Establishing primary liability where a party is involved in direct infringement; and ensure the application of principles of secondary liability, including contributory liability and vicarious civil liability, as well as criminal liability and abetting if appropriate.
(b) Establishing liability for actions which, taken as a whole, encourage infringement by third parties, in particular with respect to products, components and/or services whose predominant application is the facilitation of infringement.

This passage takes direct aim at the DMCA’s “safe harbor” protections.  These protections provide shelter for ISPs and remove them from any liability associated with their user’s actions. If the above language makes it into ACTA, ISPs will become a tool of the RIAA, MPAA and others to hunt down alleged violators. The copyright equation would become imbalanced and distinctly in favor of the rights holders, leaving the rest of us at a disadvantage.

Keep in mind that unlike ACTA the DMCA hearings were open to public input. The DMCA is also an Act, which requires Congressional approval. ACTA on the other hand is a Trade Agreement, which means no Congressional approval is required.

ACTA is shaping up to be one fine example of corporate influenced policy twice removed from the citizenry.

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