The internet chapter of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a secret copyright treaty whose text Obama’s administration refused to disclose due to “national security” concerns, has leaked. It’s bad. It says:
* That ISPs have to proactively police copyright on user-contributed material. This means that it will be impossible to run a service like Flickr or YouTube or Blogger, since hiring enough lawyers to ensure that the mountain of material uploaded every second isn’t infringing will exceed any hope of profitability.
* That ISPs have to cut off the Internet access of accused copyright infringers or face liability. This means that your entire family could be denied to the internet—and hence to civic participation, health information, education, communications, and their means of earning a living—if one member is accused of copyright infringement, without access to a trial or counsel.
* That the whole world must adopt US-style “notice-and-takedown” rules that require ISPs to remove any material that is accused—again, without evidence or trial—of infringing copyright. This has proved a disaster in the US and other countries, where it provides an easy means of censoring material, just by accusing it of infringing copyright.
* Mandatory prohibitions on breaking DRM, even if doing so for a lawful purpose (e.g., to make a work available to disabled people; for archival preservation; because you own the copyrighted work that is locked up with DRM)
Electronic Frontier Foundation:
…The leaks confirm everything that we feared about the secret ACTA negotiations. The Internet provisions have nothing to do with addressing counterfeit products, but are all about imposing a set of copyright industry demands on the global Internet, including obligations on ISPs to adopt Three Strikes Internet disconnection policies, and a global expansion of DMCA-style TPM laws….As expected, the Internet provisions will go beyond existing international treaty obligations and follow the language of Article 18.10.30 of the recent U.S. – South Korea Free Trade Agreement.
This week 40 or so countries are meeting in South Korea to consider text for a new international agreement on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. It is called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The term “counterfeiting” is designed to demonize the agreement critics as friends of organized crime, much like the name of the Patriot Act seemed better than the “Elimination of Civil Liberties Act.” It is really an agreement that addresses a wide range of intellectual property enforcement issues—involving patents, copyrights, trademarks and other IPR.
If you are a lowly member of the public, the text is secret. The names of persons who attend the meetings are secret. The titles of the documents are secret. If you represent a big firm or law firm—pretty much any big firm it seems, the U.S. government will show you documents after you sign a non-disclosure agreement – curbing your right to speak out on the contents of the documents you see.
Some details of the negotiation have leaked out, most recently from a memo by Euopean Union describing the Obama Administration proposal for a new global system of Internet controls and liabilities. Michael Geist, Gwen Hienz of EFF, and a few journalists—most living outside of the U.S., have written about ACTA.
The entire U.S. tech sector has been publicly silent, as the Obama administration has co-oped them into trading silence for access to the secret documents.
At this point, Congress needs to stand up and put an end to this appalling spectacle of secret legislation on a global scale. How can politicians claim to be all for transparency, and allow this indefensible violation of the public right to know proceed?
A large number of organizations and people have written President Obama asking that he end the secrecy of the negotiation. It is doubtful this will happen unless newspapers write about the issue (aren’t they big advocates of the right to know?), members of Congress weigh in, or if the critics of the secret negotiation can mobilize public opinion.