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Tag Archives: ACTA

As mentioned before, this entry will be about ACTA.  It will also feature a few snipes at USA’s foreign (trade) policy.

Most things that can be said about SOPA and PIPA, also apply for ACTA, at least when it comes to the motives behind it. While bad, the ”final” version of ACTA isn’t as dire as SOPA and PIPA…if you merely look at the content of the treaty(1).  However, as an international agreement that will come with its own organisation, it is significantly harder than to simply ”undo” compared to a national law.  I could repeat numerous other sources going into the details why ACTA is a terrible idea, condemn how long it was all shrouded in secrecy, rage about how absurd the original version was and so on. But this serves little purpose as there’s already Wikipedia (2) and others (3+4+5+6) for that.

Regardless of the specifics, it is another step in what’s effectively the USA’s ”War on Piracy”.  The name of the treaty is rather deceptive, considering it is also about generic medicine and copyright infringement; but that’s really just the usual dirty politics. Certainly, Japan might have been the depositary of the agreement, but it’s fairly safe to say that it would not have gotten any traction if the USA wasn’t backing it. I’m also inclined to think that Japan’s version of ACTA was primarily focused on counterfeit goods (hence the name of the treaty) and that mostly the USA is behind it covering copyright infringement and generic medicine.

The above seems logical enough, as it is clearly national policy of the USA to battle copyright infringement, going as far as using intimidation and bribery to force other countries to be more anti-piracy; directly undermining their sovereignty. Even USA’s allies in other wars are apparently not immune, as Colombia and Saudi Arabia’s copyright protection has improved in recent years. The latter is not on the Special 301 Report watchlist anymore (7+8), although I wouldn’t be surprised if its getting a preferential treatment due the War on Terror and its oil reserves; considering that the country’s human right issues often end up being swiped under the rug. Of course, there are actually a few powerful countries that can not be bullied around; China and Russia continue to flaunt copyright law and there’s amusingly little the US can and will do about it. Instead, the biggest pressure tends to be put on other Western countries. We certainly are lucky with our considerate ”ally”(9+10+11+12+13)!

I’m immensely curious about what will happen if the government of a European Union member state persists in standing up against USA pressure when it comes to trade matters (such as copyright, but also generic medicine and GMO foods). Essentially, the question will be if the USA will start a trade war or turns out to be merely bluffing. Because if they do start a large trade war, neither side would truly ”win”. In fact, I’m inclined to think that it would do more damage to the USA than to the EU. While this is an interesting subject to theorise about;  it’s a bit off topic for this entry, so I will probably explore it some other day in detail.

But back on topic: ACTA. Fortunately, European support for ACTA is starting to crumble. A majority of the Dutch House of Representatives is against ratification of ACTA, because it is unclear if it doesn’t violate the European Convention on Human Rights (hint: it does). Bulgaria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Latvia and Germany(!) are also currently not planning on ratifying it any time soon. At this stage, it seems highly unlikely ACTA is going to survive in the EU, probably leading to it being killed off altogether.

As expected, some of our politicians think differently about the objections. According to Maxime Verhagen (Dutch Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation), ACTA will change nothing for the common internet user and is primarily supposed to take down websites with illegal content, such as child pornography. Wait, what; child pornography? What does child pornography have to do with ACTA? Was he seriously hoping that saying that magical term would save the day? I’m guessing he’s a rabid fan of Johan Schlüter (14).

But even as ACTA is starting to collapse, the war continues. Another threat looms on the horizon, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (15). The original agreement between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore started innocently enough, as its  basically a free trade agreement. Surprisingly, it actually looks pretty decent at a glance. The treaty tries to take a sensible approach, wanting a ” ..a balance between the rights of right holders and the legitimate interests of users and the community with regard to protected subject matter.” In addition, signees can adopt ”measures to prevent the abuse of intellectual property rights by right holders” (16).

However, to everyone’s detriment, the USA now has started negotiations to join the TPP… and as part of the USA’s war on piracy, they want corrupt it into a fanatical pro-copyright and pro-patent treaty according to some alleged leaks (17+18+19); potentially turning it into something worse than SOPA, PIPA and ACTA combined. It’s a pity that even the Obama administration appears to be adamant in serving the interests of a select few, instead of serving the vast majority; something that is unfortunately mirrored in several other western countries.

On a more positive note,  it does seem that the SOPA/PIPA debacle has achieved a success that runs contrary to the hopes of the backers. Thanks to these two bills, it is my belief that a fairly significant number of people have been shook awake. We now know that we need to fight for a  ”free” internet. Governments world wide will continue to try to censor the internet, all too eager to blurt out magic words such as ”child pornography” (20) and ”terrorism”. The copyright industry will not cease its campaign of lies (21+22) and hypocrisy (23), a campaign that has shown no signs of slowing down through out the years (24).

My next entry will likely be either about the inherent tension between capitalism and copyright , or the rather astonishing cover-up that involves a certain high-ranking Dutch civil servant.