The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is an international treaty under negotiation that will have far-reaching ramifications for how millions of internet users share copyrighted material online. It is a US-led initiative, with strong support from Japan. Other countries involved in the negotiations include the EU, South Korea, Canada, Singapore, Mexico, NZ and Australia. It has been estimated that this treaty will be made public by 2011 - and pressure will be placed on other countries to sign as part of future trade agreements.
Negotiations are top-secret for 'national security reasons' - yet the US trade representative has allowed certain interest groups to view the document. These include people from Google, eBay, Intel, Time Warner, Sony, News Corporation, the MPAA and RIAA. Members of the public have largely been kept in the dark, apart from leaks online.
But what has been leaked is scary enough. This treaty is going to give the copyright holders the teeth to enforce copyright law, and internet service providers are going to be the watchdogs. To be considered a 'safe harbour' from prosecution, ISPs will be obliged to operate a three-strikes policy for alleged copyright infringement (no evidence required): two warnings, and then a ban for one year for that household. There is some speculation that ISPs will share lists of banned households, preventing people from subscribing to another ISP in the meantime.
One year is a pretty long time to go without the internet.
Michael Geist, a Canadian law professor at the University of Ottawa, provides a great summary of the dangers of ACTA in an interview on CBC's As It Happens.
He also has a 20min slide presentation that outlines the origins of ACTA, and where it is heading:
If ACTA is implemented, the internet will not be the same. Forget about watching music videos and film segments on YouTube
. Forget about making fanvids and fanmixes. Forget about fansubs and scanlations. Forget about making screencaps for icons, website layouts, and lulz on image-hosting comms such as 4chan and [info]fandomsecrets.
No more bittorrenting your favourite films, TV shows, anime. No more sharing of manga raws. And don't think you can hide on US Enet
or IRC either. The groups providing these services will be subject to the same 'safe harbour' requirements too. When your country gets into bed with the US or other signatory states over trade, you too will have to comply with ACTA.
As for the grey area of fanfic and fanart, they may very well clamp down on that too. ACTA has redefined criminal copyright infringement to include significant wilful infringements that have no direct or indirect motivation of financial gain. So it no longer matters if your activities are not-for-profit. As far as ACTA is concerned, you are still committing a criminal offence - which means the government can come after you. (Actually, copyright infringement is already a criminal offence here - people have served jail time for sharing music online).
If ACTA does make it through to my country in 2011-2012, my fannish activities are over. I'll have to pull down my websites and all the copyright-infringing content on them. I'll have to remove my profiles on various forums and archives. I simply can't risk being an active online fan any longer.
Which, in the end, is what the major US media corporations, who have no doubt lobbied hard for the copyright provisions in ACTA, want of us all. They don't want fans who question and dissect and remix and rewrite without showing 'respect' for the original work. They prefer consumers who passively digest the prepackaged content that's tossed their way, and come back for seconds afterwards.
ETA 29 Mar: ravensilver has more links with information about ACTA. I've also come across an ACTA rant by CNET's Molly Woods: Dear President Obama: Get ACTA out in the open.
edited 5th Oct '10 7:07:11 PM by BlackKing