ACTA's Back

Simon Phipps | | February 6, 2012

Technology issues are now a matter for citizens of the internet and not just big corporations.

Now that the US bills SOPA and PIPA have been put on ice, attention has returned to their parent, an international treaty called ACTA. I've written extensively about ACTA before, but in summary it is an international treaty that has been secretly negotiated to ensure as little input as possible from the citizens of any country.

While superficially about stemming the flow of counterfeit physical goods (ACTA stands for "Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement"), the copyright and patent industries (music, movies, software, pharmaceuticals and more) have successfully infested it and the result is a trade agreement that substantially reduces the scope for discretion over new approaches to business on the internet.

While we are told ACTA "will not require changes to Europe's laws", it creates an environment where we can expect all the most controlling and invasive parts of every country's laws to be emphasised and all the most flexible parts - such as fair use, the public commons and cultural expression - to be minimised. It's a treaty that will be cited every time the USA wants to extradite a British citizen over copyright, for example - even when no law in Europe is being broken. Like DRM, ACTA quantises discretion and reduces all our freedoms...