ACTA and HR 1981: SOPA Meets Orwell’s 1984

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George Orwell's 1984 is calling...

On the heels of SOPA’s defeat, attention is being drawn to two additional measures making the rounds in the domain of global politics.  Apparently SOPA is a drop in the bucket compared to the worldwide ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) agreement and the H.R. 1981 bill (Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011) in Congress.  If you thought SOPA and PIPA violated the sanctity, security, and liberty of the internet – wait till you get a load of this.

During the month of October 2007, several countries of the world such as the United States, members of the European Union, and Japan, expressed the intent to pen a treaty that helped the war on intellectual property theft.  Rather than focus on the physical knockoffs of cosmetics, handbags, or what have you – the agreement is more geared toward theft that occurs in the non-physical realm – the internet naturally.

Since its inception, any form of ACTA that has been proposed encourages disturbing crackdown methods through a SOPA-like modus operandi as well as 24/7 IP surveillance by ISPs.  If you are confused as to what that may mean, allow me to break it down for you and outline each of the dubious steps that this treaty seeks to take.  Here are the facts you need to know about ACTA.  ACTA would:

  1. Introduce a form of internet filtering just as SOPA did.  ISPs and search engines would be forced to remove the alleged infringing sites from their listings.
  2. Allow the law to carry out such actions without having to obtain a court warrant…once again “just as SOPA did.”
  3. Enforce a mandatory law that all ISPs and internet websites keep detailed IP logs of their users.  This means your internet provider or favorite website will have to maintain permanent records of your browsing habits…even SOPA on the surface didn’t appear to suggest going that far.
  4. Punish users branded repeat offenders if they access or share copyright infringing material three times or more.  Once more, this would all be without any due process and would require zero intervention by the courts.
  5. Penalize any accused infringers regardless whether they have “no direct or indirect motivation of financial gain.”  Here are three scenarios where this language could be incredibly damaging: (1) You invite your friend over to play the video/pc game they have been dying to play but have not purchased yet.  (2) You are a blogger covering the upcoming release of a hot summer flick and embed the movie trailer uploaded by the movie company itself on your post. (3) You are a YouTuber and upload a video of your birthday party that had a great DJ playing several of this year’s best artists as you all danced.  Even though you do not seek to rob the intellectual property rights of any of the entities mentioned above, you face some hefty fines and potential jail time in each case.  This is especially true if you catch the attention of a serial infringement claim abuser.
  6. Have all of the above and more (take a look at the full agreement) applied universally on a worldwide scale.  Enough said.

The usual suspects involved in ACTA, or its American cousin H.R. 1981 proposed by SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith no less, are major entertainment bodies like the MPAA and RIAA.  In a letter addressed to the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy, the MPAA dropped several terms of endearment towards the agreement.  Excerpts from the letter that underscore how desperately the MPAA desires the acceleration of ACTA’s passing are as follows.

We urge you to support the Administration’s efforts to negotiate a sound and comprehensive ACTA that codifies best practices for copyright enforcement. […] Outcries on the lack of transparency in the ACTA negotiations are a distraction.

We appreciate the US government’s efforts thus far to broaden its consultative process on the ACTA. Despite these exceptional efforts, the protests persist, fostering apprehension over the Agreement’s substance.

The US motion picture industry continues to be a cornerstone of America’s creative economy, employing millions of Americans in skilled, high value jobs. […] The US motion picture and television industry is one of the few US industries that consistently generates, even in these difficult economic times, a positive balance of trade, distributing films to over 150 countries around the world. In 2007, that surplus was $13.6 billion.

Opponents of ACTA are either indifferent to this situation, or actively hostile toward efforts to improve copyright enforcement worldwide. Many of them decried the WTO TRIPS agreement when it came into force in the 1990’s and they now insist that any effort to build upon the TRIPS minimum standards for enforcement is “anti-consumer and anti-innovation.”

Out of those several concerning passages the fact that MPAA Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman called protests a “distraction” is enough to send collective shivers down the spines of internet denizens everywhere.  It is unfortunate that an American agency would go so far as to call civil protest as nothing more than pesky prattle.  It is my understanding that one of the cardinal rights of the Constitution was the freedom to present a dissenting opinion.  The MPAA is presenting a dissenting opinion to critics of ACTA, H.R. 1981, SOPA, and PIPA is it not?  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander my friend.

We are not yet in the age of Orwell’s spine-tingling [easyazon-link asin=”0452284236″]1984[/easyazon-link].  This does not change the fact that the current course of actions we are taking is setting us straight into the chapters of that chilling book.  As of right now, the passing of ACTA is being coordinated between several countries around the world (see this archive for the total) and is speedily being pushed through the EU Parliament.  Global cooperation is indeed a beautiful thing.  The thing is…cooperation is largely founded on the principle of “live and let be.”  The alphabet soup of proposals mentioned in this article neither allow innocent citizens to “live” or “let be.”

If any of what I said is considered “hostile” thinking then so be it. You can show your disapproval of ACTA along with me by signing this official White House petition.

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