What is ACTA?Edit
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is “an agreement to create new global intellectual property enforcement standards that go beyond current international law.” In October 2011, eight countries signed ACTA, but it remained in limbo until July 4, 2012, when the European Nations Parliament voted to reject the treaty (Source).
ACTA was negotiated in secret and is therefore considered undemocratic by many. According to Wired UK, it is difficult to determine who wrote the Trade Agreement because participating parties must sign NDA’s before being allowed to see the document. Leaks to the public began in 2008 on wikileaks, and formal support for public transparency followed. According to United States Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in a letter to the United States Trade Representative, "We firmly believe that the public has a right to know the contents of the proposals being considered under ACTA, just as they have the right to read the text of bills pending before Congress."
What is the Purpose of ACTA?
ACTA is being criticized for having the term “counterfeiting” in its title, which disguises the true intention of the Agreement. While the ACTA does claim to protect consumers’ confidence that what they buy is genuine, and not a knock off (also protecting companies’ logos from being misused for profit), the ACTA has restrictions on file sharing that go much deeper. Cutting off illegal downloading is just the tip of the iceburg, and with stringent personal surveillance demands written into the agreement, many claim that the main focus of ACTA is to protect large companies, not consumers.
Indeed, the overall goal of ACTA seems to be one of protecting major companies such as movie studios, music industries, and even pharmaceutical companies from having their products counterfeited and/or pirated. While protecting copyrighted works is important, some argue that ACTA goes too far in limiting free speech and Internet use, the European Parliament included.
What are the Dangers of ACTA?This clever Youtube Animation explains the dark side of ACTA, comparing it to the following scenario: you pay to take a cooking course and learn to cook something delicious, and then you go home and teach your spouse how to cook the dish. Under the ACTA's guidelines, you would both now be considered criminals and subject to fines, prison, and are even blocked from ever taking another cooking course again since you shared that information for free. The video also explains that you may feel safe sharing this information with your spouse, thinking nobody would find out, but under ACTA, your online actions will be constantly monitored and censored.
ACTA was criticized for infringing on free speech, with the requisit monitoring of the public's personal actions. Had the ACTA passed in the EU pariament and taken effect, “ACTA Committees” would have been responsible for monitoring internet users. Internet Service Providers would have been liable for what their users do online, and file sharing would have no longer existed.
The Future of Trade Agreements Edit
While the ACTA may have failed, it is just the beginning of the chokehold we will see as a result of IP enforcement in the future. While SOPA almost passed, and the ACTA was debated for several years before being rejected, many new pieces of legislation have risen from their ashes, including the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, which some argue may be even more restrictive than its fallen predecessors. According to Forbes Magazine, "We shold all be worried about the implications of this and other trade agreements on the global economy, the ripple effects of which would reach all of us regardless of geographical location."