Back in March, Declan McCullagh reported that the Obama Administration cloaked its draft section of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) under “national security” wrappers — for the general public. At the same time, the document had supposedly already made the rounds of “corporate lobbyists in Europe, Japan, and the U.S.”

Today, someone has leaked information about the U.S.-authored draft chapter on internet “counterfeiting” — a document scheduled for discussion among participating nations in South Korea on Wednesday.

According to PC World, under the treaty Internet Service Providers would become liable for copyright infringement. This is like saying that the telephone company is liable if criminals (or terrorists!) use the company’s assets to plot a crime. How absurd. But don’t be lulled into thinking that absurd means “won’t happen.”

ISPs around the world may be forced to snoop on their subscribers and cut them off if they are found to have shared copyright-protected music on the Internet, under an international agreement being promoted by the U.S. […]

In a summary of the U.S.’s position shared orally with trade officials at the European Commission in September, signatories of the accord must “provide for third-party liability.” The Commission informed all 27 countries in the E.U. of the U.S. position in a memo seen by IDG News service. […]

This provision would mean that every country that signs up to ACTA must allow content owners such as record companies and Hollywood studios to sue ISPs for failing to stop their subscribers from illegally sharing copyright-protected material such as music and movies.

In Canada, Michael Geist writes:

If accurate (and these provisions are consistent with the U.S. approach for the past few years in bilateral trade negotations) the combined effect of these provisions would to be to dramatically reshape Canadian copyright law and to eliminate sovereign choice on domestic copyright policy… If Canada agrees to these ACTA terms, flexibility in WIPO implementation (as envisioned by the treaty) would be lost and Canada would be forced to implement a host of new reforms (this is precisely what U.S. lobbyists have said they would like to see happen). In other words, the very notion of a made-in-Canada approach to copyright would be gone.

And at BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow summarizes the leak, in part:

[T]he whole world must adopt US-style “notice-and-takedown” rules that require ISPs to remove any material that is accused — again, without evidence or trial — of infringing copyright. This has proved a disaster in the US and other countries, where it provides an easy means of censoring material, just by accusing it of infringing copyright.

Past time to be screaming bloody murder. (“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more,” comes to mind.)

Tell them in no uncertain terms that the the U.S. government does not have the right to make the ACTA negotiations immune to public scrutiny, especially when said negotiations are being coordinated with titans of global capitalism.

Then tell your friends, too.O

KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst
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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • archangel

    calling your congress people/ writing the White House is a useful call, but is unlikely to be effective, as are most call/write ins. There are huge multinational corps involved in all this, not just the US, and not to mention huge cable coms et al… who are way more ferocious than the music industry has ever been. Follow the case in Calif against Comcast to see where ‘carrier’ responsibilty and ‘free capacity without being slowed or rationed’ is going legally. Follow the p2p bills currently winding through congress. That some users even now think they are not being tracked by keystroke and by cookies and other means, is a sad state of awareness. Most dont even realize that there is money to be made not only by hacking and theiving, but more so by counter hacking the hackers. Spy vs Spy in Mad magazine comes to mind just right.

    • Archangel, I’m still trying to find out if this treaty has to be ratified by the Senate. If so, calling would have more potential impact.

      • archangel

        I think so Kathy. That’s good info.

        happy motorcycling incidentally. Used to ride a nice beemer, but head on. You know how that goes afterward.

  • michaelD

    change for the worse you can believe in and fear

  • AustinRoth

    Copyright abuse is not new to Obama or W. This has been getting worse and worse over the years. It is ironically very bipartisan, as the front-line companies that want extended copyright laws have huge creative elements and tend to be solid Democratic supporters, and the corporate owners who also want it tend to be large Republican supporters.

    The people? Hah.

    • Hi Austin – see the EFF quote. Account termination based on *alleged* copyright violates due process and U.S. law. Moreover, making ISPs the heavy (liable) in this scenario is just flat wrong.

      The “problem” isn’t copyright violation so much as extortion on the part of the entertainment industry. Copyright was only 14 years at the time of the Constitution. Now it’s up to 125 years for a corporation, and life+70 years for an individual. That’s too bloody long and violates the spirit of the U.S. Constitution, which grants LIMITED copyright.

      Also, the U.S. doesn’t like to be reminded that we broke copyright, brazenly, in the early days of the country. The folks “hurt” by our breaking copyright were British publishers and authors.

  • ProfElwood

    I hate to say it, but I can see where this is leading to. There’s only one entity that can make itself immune to lawsuits — the government. First, the laws are made that put tremendous burdens on the private system and twists it into knots. Then a government ISP is created for its own offices, then expanded until the entire system is government run. It even sounds familiar somehow.

  • Thanks for the comments. I’ve learned a little more. Here’s EFF:

    The safe harbors in the US Copyright law require ISPs to adopt and reasonably implement a policy for termination of “repeat infringers” “in appropriate circumstances”. US law currently gives ISPs considerable flexibility to determine what are “appropriate circumstances” justifying the termination of a customer’s Internet account. If the leak reports are correct, this would no longer be true. Instead, ISPs would be required to automatically terminate a customer upon a rightsholders’ repeat allegation of copyright infringement at a particular IP address.

  • Also, here are the 42 individuals your U.S. Trade Representative thinks are “everyone who need[s] to see the documents”. FOI request worked after Knowledge Ecology International was told the list was secret due to (wait for it) “national security.”

    KEI was surprised to learn in early September that the United States Trade Representative was using nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) to selectively share copies of the ACTA Internet text outside of the USTR formal advisory board system.

    When questioned about this practice, USTR told KEI that it had “consulted with an array of experts from various IP and tech industries and associations and NGOs in the process of deliberation regarding a US proposal on one section of the agreement.” According to persons who have been approached by USTR, this included the opportunity to review the texts that the United States would present at the next round of ACTA negotiation. USTR did not extend KEI an offer to view the text under an NDA.

    We asked USTR for the names of the persons who had signed the NDAs and had been given access to the text. USTR declined, on the grounds that the release of the names of persons who had seen the text would undermine the national security of the United States.

  • Ouch. All three of my crashes have been slow speed: one cat, one slippery something on an off ramp, and one clueless elderly lady at a 4-way stop.