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ACTA: less knowledge means less resistance

Right now, your government is probably engaged in the discussion of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). You are likely not aware of that because your government has been actively keeping these negotiations and details surrounding them secret.

Your government does not want you to know about a treaty that has far-reaching negative effects on your freedom, as well as your basic human rights. If you did know, you might speak up and make it difficult for the drivers of ACTA to smoothly push their interests past you.

The red light should light up in your head right now!

The goals of the "trade agreement" that is being negotiated are multifarious, but essentially seem to centre around challenges related to intellectual property, and copyright in the digital age, even though it is sometimes claimed that the agreement serves primarily to contain trade of fake Prada bags and Rolex watches.

In reality, ACTA is about content producers like movie studios, who try everything to prevent you from copying their work without paying for it — even if you cannot actually purchase the work, because of e.g. technical measures designed to prevent certain people from legally obtaining content, or simply because the media companies are greedy and consider it PR-savvy to delay the release of a given work in certain countries until after people have had a chance to pay a lot of money to the cinemas.

In theory, a creative work goes out of copyright 50 or 75 years after its author died, depending on whether the creativity can be attributed to a person or a corporation, respectively. Therefore, 50 or 75 years after creation, it gets increasingly hard to monetise a work that has not been reinvented in that period of time.

Sounds plausible to you and me, but this sort of stuff frightens companies like Disney, who seem powerful enough to simply have the law changed. That is not how things should work.

The media producers are failing to control the Internet, and hence they want to turn it into something more like cable TV, which they do know how to control.

ACTA aims to make copyright infringement a criminal offence.

ACTA wants to make it possible for a government to cut you off the Internet because someone thinks you did something bad — they don't actually have to prove it though, accusation is enough. Similar efforts have already failed all over the world, e.g. in France and New Zealand. That's a sign, not a reason to try again.

ACTA wants to set in stone that you have absolutely no rights when you cross borders. This is largely already the case — border officials can pretty much do with you whatever they want — now it's supposed to be made official, and legally binding.

ACTA will create a culture of surveillance and suspicion.

ACTA is designed to break the Internet, among other things.

But worst of all: I am just speculating because we are not supposed to know the details.

The best current source of information on ACTA seems to be Canadian law professor Dr. Michael Geist, who has been collecting content and linking to articles consistently since the ACTA negotiations commenced 2–3 years ago. The Electronic Frontier Foundation also has comprehensive resources available.

It's even more important today than before to put an end to this secrecy. Don't let your government enter secret agreements that affect you and your life, refusing to talk to you about it beforehand, and probably refusing all responsibility afterwards. Talk to your politicians and ask questions that cannot be answered with stock replies.

If you have specific contact addresses for politicians, please let me know so I can add them.

Colin Jackson helped me with this article at Kiwi Foo Camp. He also takes an issue with the secrecy around ACTA.