Forget SOPA & PIPA. ACTA is ten times worse and already on its way to being passed

Peter Mandelson: Proof as if it were needed of low life in high places

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is an international trade agreement between the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada, South Korea and Australia, which aims to enforce copyright and tackle the worldwide problem of counterfeited goods.

The proliferation of fake goods onto the international market, is partly thanks to the ready availability of near-good-enough gadgets and gizmos on eBay and other user generated trading sites, which masquerade as genuine items from big brand manufacturers.

From Dyson vacuum cleaners to the Apple iPad, every must-have item has its cheeper to produce cousin in the lucrative counterfeit industry. Often produced by exactly the same workers from the factories who produce the legitimate goods, $100 Rolex watches which look and feel like the real thing, but with essentially worthless inner workings, sit right alongside iPods with cloned operating systems which brick as soon as they are connected to iTunes.

There is no doubting that this is a huge problem. But the problem with ACTA, according to the Stop ACTA website, is that “[the treaty and all] negociations are done secretely. Leaked documents show that one of the major goal of the treaty is to force signatory countries into implementing anti file-sharing policies under the form of three-strikes schemes and net filtering practices.”

The British government have been pushing for ‘a three strikes and you’re out’ policy towards internet users who are found to have infringed copyright for some time. But all proposals so far have attempted to compel Internet Service Providers to police their users, by adopting monitoring methods which would prove extremely difficult to regulate and are wide open to abuse. For this reason, ISPs are largely against such measures. But it’s only a matter of time before an agreement is reached, which isolates them from legal liability.

For example, before leaving office, Peter Mandelson, the former New Labour MP and advisor to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who also served as a European Commissioner, introduced the Digital Economy Act, which “establishes a system of law which aims to first increase the ease of tracking down and suing persistent infringers, and after a minimum of one year permit the introduction of “technical measures” to reduce the quality of, or potentially terminate, those infringers’ Internet connections.” Or in plain English, if you do anything which they deem illegal (and therefore immoral?), they’ll make sure you never use the internet ever again.

Oleg Deripaska's yacht, where Peter Mandelson was amazed to discover that file sharing is a bigger threat to the UK economy than the wholesale closer of its manufacturing industry

Mandelson, or “Mandy” to his friends (who include record company billionaire David Geffen, the Rothschild family, numerous Russian oligarchs and other glitterati who earned all of their money fair and square) ushered in the Digital Economy Bill, literally in the closing hours of the last parliament, to eliminate any danger of parliamentarians, with their pesky “oversight” and “scrutiny” and “moral scruples” scuppering the chances of this not at all dodgy piece of legislation being passed.

ACTA now seeks to unify the policies of individual member states, with similar laws to the Digital Economy Bill, under one internationally recognised law. Read the deliberative draft of the proposals here:

Recent events in the United States, when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) attempted to push through the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), and the massive on-line campaign which successfully delayed that heinous law from being passed, shows that when those of us who are directly and negatively impacted by bad legislation of this kind get together, we can prevent such laws from being passed; raising awareness in so doing, among our friends and family, who might not ordinarily pay attention to international politics, of the need to remain vigilant.

You don’t have to be a conspiracy theory nut job to be concerned about the sinister and cynical power play which is being fought out between hugely well financed individuals and private corporations around the world. They’ve seen what is happening in the Middle East and how oppressed people, in the nations of the world who currently work for a fraction of the wages demanded in the West, are taking to the streets to say enough is enough.

It is now time to do the same to ACTA as we did to SOPA and PIPA. The last thing their plans, models and projections can predict, is what will happen when an informed and morally motivated public join together in one voice of opposition.

They don’t mind what we know, they mind when we act on what we know.

This isn’t about demanding the right to download stuff for free. This isn’t about being against everything our governments try to do, simply because they’re trying to do it. This is about saying NO MORE to private corporations writing our laws for us, with scant regard for due process and a rational informed debate.

No one wants to steal from musicians and filmmakers whose art and skill make possible the movies and music we love. But the current system of copyright and the laws which enforce it, by criminalising innocent users, while ignoring the organised criminals who infringe intellectual property on an industrial scale, extorts as much money from artists and content producers as it does the end user.

It is the copyright law which needs to change, not the way in which people who fall foul of it are prosecuted — particularly when the methods for pursuing casual offenders involve destroying our presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and handing over more and more of our rights to privacy than we already have.

2 comments on “Forget SOPA & PIPA. ACTA is ten times worse and already on its way to being passed

  1. Wow, fantastic detailed overview here. Thanks for posting all this. (aside: im back! Been busy as I have a little 4 mo old girl now! Her name is Sagan. She has her humanist freethinking parents to thank for her name.)

  2. Great article. I’ve written to my local MEP’s about their vote on this, the response was somewhat interesting. Tories ignored me ( shock! ) as did the Lib Dems, Labour weasel worded me ( and got flamed for doing so ), with UKIP and loveable old Nick Griffin clearly promising to vote against.

    I’m also wondering the real reason for this law, they know copyright infringers are just going to switch to encrypted tunnelling to defeat the monitoring measures, the spooks have told them as much.

    Also, excuse the blatant plugging, but we over at the Pirate Party ( ) would love to see anyone who wants to fight this stuff.

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