ACTA: new threat to the internet and how you can act

We wrote earlier last week about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act)  and PIPA (Protect IP Act)  which have recently been dropped after massive internet protest, and now comes another global  movement that appear more dangerous. Here are some essential information and resources that you need to know about ACTA and how you can help.

ACTA stands for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, and represent an international treaty designed to protect intellectual property rights.  This agreement, according to Wikipedia, aims to establish an international legal framework for targeting counterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement on the Internet, and would create a new governing body outside existing forums, such as the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, or the United Nations.

It was first created by the U.S. and Japan in 2006, and then: Australia, Canada, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea signed on last year. Whereas SOPA and PIPA were proposed bills in the U.S. House and Senate respectively, ACTA is a plurilateral treaty between the countries that sign on to the agreement. The agreement was signed on 1 October 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States. In January 2012, the European Union and 22 of its member states signed as well, bringing the total number of signatories to 31.

Primary goal of ACTA is the prevention of copyright theft on the Internet. The treaty operates outside already existing international bodies, such as the United Nations (UN) or World Trade Organization (WTO). By signing on to the agreement, countries are agreeing to work with one another on issues of counterfeiting and copyright theft. Opponents have argued that the treaty will restrict fundamental civil and digital rights, including freedom of expression and communication privacy.”The bulk of the WTO’s 153 members” have raised concerns that the treaty could distort trade and goes beyond the existing Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.Opponents also criticize ACTA’s removal of “legal safeguards that protect Internet Service Providers from liability for the actions of their subscribers” in effect giving ISPs no option but to comply with privacy invasions.According to an analysis by the Free Software Foundation, ACTA would require that existing ISPs no longer host free software that can access copyrighted media, and DRM-protected media would not be legally playable with free or open source software.

Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to protect free speech online, raise concern that “ACTA has several features that raise significant potential concerns for consumers’ privacy and civil liberties for innovation and the free flow of information on the Internet legitimate commerce and for developing countries’ ability to choose policy options that best suit their domestic priorities and level of economic development.”

How ACTA affects Australia? According to some it is an example of :

“…legislative negligence and a total disregard for evidence in policy making in Australia. Despite the Productivity Commission proclaiming that Australia should be seeking to exclude IP from bilateral and regional trade negotiations because of the obviously damaging changes to Australian law imposed by the AUSFTA, here is DFAT negotiating an agreement that entrenches those bad laws, just as it continues to include those bad laws in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). When queried, there is no study or economic assessment that supports the expansion or stricter enforcement of copyright and patents in Australia, except of course for untrustworthy industry research, manufactured to elicit legislative change by deception.”

What you can do? 

If you are in Australia – you can make a noise and join Pirate Party’s submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.

If you are anywhere else in the world – sign the global petition, there are over a million signatures!

Check out the extensive list of events and protests world wide announced for February 2012.

Selected resources:

Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights

Avaaz – Save the Internet petition

Australia’s Last Chance to Defeat ACTA

Joint Standing Committee on Treaties

ACTA Protest Guide: Rally Details From Around the World

What is ACTA? Why Should You Care?

Danica is an internet researcher, consultant and speaker on social media and digital inclusion. Her academic research is rooted in her own practical experiences breaking down digital walls in central European society. She is Tech, and Research editor for Australian Science. Read more of her work at her blog, and follow her on twitter @DanicaR.

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