ACTA W5

When I was a kid there was an excellent Canadian news magazine television series called W5 which taught me (and probably other Canadian watching) about the five spokes of journalistic inquiry.

Since the mainstream news media has declined to cover ACTA in any meaningful way, I thought I’d say a few words here.

WHO

Participating in ACTA

mouse ears on the world: text says ACTA ATTACKS INTERNET

  • Australia
  • Canada,
  • the European Union
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Switzerland
  • United States

American Flag hangs down

ACTA came with heavy duty Non-Disclosure penalties. Which is why most if not all of the elected representatives of the participating governments were kept in the dark about what was even on the table. This includes elected representatives of the American Government. If they were made privvy to the negotiations, they were legally restrained from talking about it. Not very democratic, eh?

Of the few Americans who were at all aware of ACTA, most believed that Congressional oversight would protect them, and if conditions were untenable to American citizens it would have been possible to stop ACTA at that point. The problem was, however, that ACTA was proceeding under an executive order, so only the president’s signature would be necessary for ratification.

WHAT

ACTA stands for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

The problem is, that is only part of it. The scope of ACTA is actually much wider.

ACTA was supposed to be negotiated in secret.
Presumably to keep out the riff raff (i.e. citizens, consumer interest groups)

Although deliberately not mentioned in the title, it seems clear that the primary purpose of ACTA was always to deal with copyright enforcement. The intent was to do an end run around WIPO, the successor to Berne, which was previously the International means of achieving copyright treaties. The WIPO process was transparent, so that everyone knew what was being negotiated. ACTA was secret, so that no one would know.

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) selected the countries they believed it would be possible to pressure into signing an agreement beneficial to certain American Corporate Interests.

WHERE

The negotiation “rounds” took place around the world.

WHEN

Begun by the Bush administration in 2007, continuing until now, ACTA has been pushed equally hard by the Obama administration, and in the current president invoked national security as a means of keeping the terms secret.

ACTA was put on a fast track in an effort to shoehorn it’s passage in time for it to become a “done deal” before the American federal elections in November.

One of the chief sources of information and organization in the fight against ACTA has beenLa Quadrature Du Net whose latest word on the subject is: ACTA is No Done Deal.

WHY

cheese and crackers on a tray

The USTR wants the entire world to conform to their agenda, which is dictated by American corporate interests.

Issues the United States would not give in on included recognizing and paying royalties for American use of European geographical trademarked names for types of cheese (like “Parmesan”) or alcoholic beverages (“Cognac” or “Champagne”)

The copyright terms of ACTA appear to have been largely dictated by the MPAA and RIAA, and in many ways seek to impose DMCA like copyright conditions on the rest of the world. Yet the DMCA has not actually been good for American citizens or culture, in fact causing many unintended chilling effects. Over the course of the DMCA’s existence, it has undergone repeated constitutional challenges which has resulted in changes that lessen it’s grip.

In the mean time, there has been an unprecedented amount of American lobbying efforts directed at influencing the copyright law of other countries, I think to alter their domestic copyright law in order to make signing ACTA work. The Digital Economy Act was rushed though the U.K. Parliament without the usual level of democratic scrutiny or debate under the “wash-up” process.

Canada has been subject to USTR pressure and lobbying efforts for nearly a decade. Repeated spurious inclusion on the USTR’s piracy watch list has provided a patina of legitimacy to completely unfounded rumours of Canadian copyright infringement, when in fact a growing body of evidence indicates Canada’s incidence of copyright piracy is far lower than American. As well, this false allegation has been used over and over again to fuel misinformation and propaganda in lobbying attempts to force Canada to rewrite our copyright law to American specifications.

Nowhere is this more clearly evident than in the fact that first the Liberal Party of Canada and then the Conservative Party of Canada have tabled draft legislation that mirrors American copyright law. Some have said these three are close enough to the American DMCA to be themselves considered infringing on it’s copyright.

Yet that isn’t really a charge that could stick, because unlike Canada, the United States does not have “Crown Copyright.” Any Intellectual Property generated by the American Government goes directly into the public domain under the assumption that having alreasdy been paid for, it should not be paid for again. In this way everything from NASA photos to American legislation are not protected by copyright.

This is just one of the ways American copyright law is “weaker” than Canadian existing copyright law.

the real “why”

Commercial counterfeiting, also called “bootlegging” most probably does cut into MPAA/RIAA profits. And like me, most people opposing ACTA and laws like the UK DEA or Canada’s Bill C-32 don’t have a problem with cracking down on commercial bootlegging.

My problem is they are trying to change the laws of ownership to make sharing illegal.

The people pushing for these laws have indicated they think personal back-ups and format shifting should be illegal. I’ve also heard it said that consumers shouldn’t be allowed to lend their digital books or CDs or DVDs to others; the Industries want every person who gets access to these works of “Intellectual Property” to pay for the access. In the extreme this means that both parent and child will require a license in order for the parent to read their child a story.

Some would say that this is the extreme, and that it hasn’t yet happened under the DMCA.

But ACTA has NOT passed.

Once laws like this are universal those things will start becoming accepted. ludicrous or not. The fact that a young Chicago woman spent two nights in jail for videotaping her sister’s birthday party under the existing DMCA is proof enough for me.

From an industry standpoint, that would be the icing on the cake, but is not the real goal.

Stopping “piracy” is another red herring.

While Industry studies may show vast losses of income due to peer to peer (p2p) filesharing, independent studies have shown that p2p actually increases industry profits because it increases exposure. The same way that radio airplay increases exposure and sold records, and now CDs.

The real goal of draconian copyright measures being contemplated or implemented is to stop independent access to distribution.

The combination of vast decrease in the costs to production of digital media with the ease of Internet distribution is the true menace to the media giants represented by the MPAA and the RIAA.
NO Canadian DMCA

In Canada almost a year ago, This Magazine reported that 30% of the Canadian Recording Industry is now Independent. Independent Canadian Artists no longer have to barter away their copyright in order to record or distribute their music. This is the real threat to the Incumbents. Ultimately the goal of the copyright law they want to pass is to stop this Independent erosion of their control of these Industries.

This trend is not confined to music. Internet video productions are beginning to become more common, and excellent feature films like Sita Sings the Blues and Die Beauty are being made by independent creators and distributed legally via p2p online.

It’s the LEGAL p2p traffic that they really need to stop.

Because the best way for Independent Artists to distribute their digital wares is through the Internet.
Which is why ACTA is bad.
This is why p2p is actually good for culture, and Net Neutrality must be protected.

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ACTA and democracy

graphic shows Mouse Ears adorning the globe over tagline ACTA attacks Internet

[note: if you don’t know what the fuss is about, a lovely short film explains concisely here.]

The ZeroPaid article ACTA Still Hasn’t Been Seen by Any UK MPs makes the excellent point that ACTA negotiations are ongoing, continuing on their fast track with the intent of being concluded by the end of October prior to the American US election.

“There has been no democratic scrutiny of the text, Parliament has been shut out of this process,” laments the UK’s Open Rights Group (ORG). “This draft agreement lacks legitimacy before it is even agreed.”

— Zeropaid ACTA Still Hasn’t Been Seen by Any UK MPs

isn’t the same true in Canada? Parliament hasn’t seen it, I don’t know if any ordinary MPs have. I recall MP Charlie Angus pressing Industry Minister Tony Clement to make ACTA public, but it hasn’t been, probably because of the stringent non-disclosure requirements. In fact, none of the elected governments of the ‘democratic’ countries involved in ACTA negotiations have been made privy to ACTA. This means that our elected representatives don’t have any idea what is actually being negotiated.

That in itself ought to have been a red flag. In fact, Canada’s ACTA negotiators were working for ACTA even when our Government was prorogued early in the year.

Of course there’s nothing stopping politicians and citizens from reading Michael Geist’s blog (as our Minister of Industry himself advised. To that end, yesterday Michael Geist launched a new public service ACTAwatch blog. Still, that is no substitute for democratic scrutiny.

drooping

The main European ACTA site, La Quadrature du Net, along with the openACTA: Stop ACTA Now site from Mexico have been working tirelessly to keep citizens informed. We have been fortunate that in spite of powerful disincentives, there has been a steady stream of leaks from within the ACTA negotiations, so the secret treaty is not as secret as they would have liked.

As ZeroPaid points out, The European Parliament adopted Written Declaration 12, yet still ACTA marches on.

Particularly disturbing in all of the “copyright law” being peddled these days is the eagerness to throw out previously existing legal safeguards that have evolved over decades or centuries of democratic law. Like this:

ACTA in Art 2.7 (Ex-Officio Action) would also establish a ‘IP border police’,” adds the ORG. “It goes beyond the provision in existing international agreements such as TRIPs which provides that prima facie evidence is required to seize goods (Art 58). It also limits the time the border authority can seize goods for to ten days (Art 55). ACTA has none of these safeguards.”

I’d like to think that Canada’s ACTA involvement was done to exert a calming effect and to make sure what comes out the other end would be sane and balanced. Sadly, the fact that our government is continuing to push Bill C-32 in the face of near universal citizen opposition has disabused me of the notion.

The WIPO process wasn’t perfect, but at least it was transparent. Secret trade treaties have no business in democratic nations. I always thought that a key element of lawmaking in a democracy was to ensure any new law would reflect accepted societal norms.

We are still a democratic nation.
Aren’t we?

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

ACTA keeps chugging along

President  Felipe Calderón posed in front of a book lined backdrop
"We welcome all views, including criticism, except insults. They will be automaticly blocked. Greetings to the trolls" --President Calderón

Canada’s Heritage Minister James Moore blocks citizens from following the Twitter feed he uses in his capacity as a federal Cabinet Minister.

So far there are 60+ citizens who have been blocked. There are probably a great many more because Twitter users are not notified when they have been blocked.

If there is a possibility you have been blocked, the easiest way to find out is to go directly to @mpjamesmoore‘s Twitter page. If you’ve been following but now the green checkmark is gone, try pushing the “follow” button, If you have been blocked a drop down message will tell you so.

If you discover you have been blocked by the Heritage Minister, you can add your name to the list of Canadians Moore has blocked by following the @no_mpjamesmoore on Twitter. This twitter group was established as a public place for citizens to indicate they’ve been blocked by Mr. Moore.

Open Acta orange Padlock logo www.openacta.org

Extraordinarily this is not a problem unique to Canada. Mexico is having a similar problem with democratic accountability.

Last night on twitter I chatted about democracy with @StopActaNow, the voice of the OpenACTA Group of Mexico.

President Felipe Calderón chooses to block citizen access to his Twitter feed.

Concerned that the rights of petition, access to information and freedom of expression are threatened by this governmental disenfranchisement, Mexican citizens are currently investigating the option of legal action.

The 21st Century has been rough going for Democracy

In the meantime the ACTAsecret Trade Agreement just keeps chugging along.

The August 25th US version of the latest ACTA text was leaked to Knowledge Ecology International, who have published a transcribed PDF version which has also been made available as an HTML version.

ACTA has not been subject to constitutional scrutiny in ANY of the countries participating in the secret trade negotiations. Which is precisely why it is a secret treaty. As I understand it the constraints placed on participation were heavy duty non-disclosure provisions, which is why most elected representatives in most democratic governments of the countries participating are not informed of what is happening.

Laws like the US DMCA, the UK Digital Economy Act and our own misguided Bill C-32 will make it easier for the respective negotiators to sign on the ACTA dotted line. Most citizens still do not know about ACTA.

So tell the people you know. We need to spread the word.

WRITE TO OUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES.

Email is invisible and easily ignored. Ask people to send letters. Real letters. Paper letters that take up physical space. They probably won’t listen. They probably won’t actually read your letter, or entertain your ideas. The most compelling argument in the world probably won’t sway them. Our letters will simply remind them to send more propaganda form letters our way.

But enough letters will get their attention.

A minority government means that the majority of elected MPs are NOT part of the ruling party.
We can write letters to THEM, too.


If you’re having trouble deciding what to say and how to say it, the Digital Copyright Canada site offers sample letters and advice as well as information about copyright.

A.C.T.A.: Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (double speak)

This is terribly important information for all Canadians.

Wikipedia: Double speak language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words.”

Since 2007 Canada, Australia, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and Switzerland have been participating in secret negotiations initiated by the United States for a supposed “Trade Treaty” called A.C.T.A., an acronym for the misleading “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”

The American copyright lobby, made up of media corporations, trade associations and copyright collectives representing the Movie and Music recording industries have somehow convinced the American government that this would be a good thing for the United States. On the American side, the treaty is being pursued under an executive order, which means that the American president has the authority to ratify it on behalf of the United States without first subjecting it to congressional scrutiny or vote. A.C.T.A. negotiations are continuing at break neck speed under heavy non-disclosure agreements which mean that most of the elected representatives of the countries involved in the negotiations are not privy to the terms under negotiation.

President Obama has denied Freedom Of Information inquiries on the basis of National Security. This type of treaty negotiation is not only wholly unprecedented, but possibly illegal as well under 19 U.S.C. 2902(b)(2).   Although it purports to be primarily about counterfeiting, the ACTA secret treaty negotiation seeks to regulate the Internet on a global scale.

I have spent a great deal of time attempting to make sense of this, since it will have serious consequences not only on Internet users but also huge impacts will be made on culture and economies around the world. The intent appears to be to legislating anti-progress by imposing strict control over the Internet.

A.C.T.A. “ stands to fatally wound all user-generated content sites from mailing lists to YouTube; which stands to criminalize kids for noncommercial file-sharing; which stands to put your internet connection in jeopardy if anyone in your house is accused of infringement, and much, much more.”

Cory Doctorow: Everything you want to know about the scary, secret copyright treaty

The media isn’t talking about A.C.T.A. which is possibly the most important and under-reported news story in the world so it is left to us to spread the word. Contact your elected reprentatives and tell them that A.C.T.A. is bad.

For more information on ACTA:

I have been blogging about A.C.T.A. in an effort to help other non-technical people understand what the issues are.

A.C.T.A. is BAD

errata: A.C.T.A. is BAD

A.C.T.A. is still BAD

Much Ado About A.C.T.A.

As well as some of the underlying issues: Nutshell Net Neutrality

D: BitTorrent

Personal Use Copying vs. Bootlegging

Free Culture, Copyright and Open Video

DRM is BAD

I’ve blogged a great deal more about copyright in the wind
This might explain why my novel “Inconstant Moon” is not finished yet.

Weightier A.C.T.A. Sources

Michael Geist, University of Ottawa Law Professor and Copyright Reform Proponent has laid it out in detail.

The ACTA Guide, Part One: The Talks To-Date

ACTA Guide, Part Two: The Documents (Official and Leaked)

ACTA Guide, Part Three: Transparency and ACTA Secrecy

ACTA Guide: Part Four: What Will ACTA Mean To My Domestic Law?

The quantity of leaked material seems to be increasing, so the latest info can usually be found in Michael Geist’s blog

Cory Doctrorow reports steadily on A.C.T.A. developments in his , and recently wrote a summary which can be found at Copyright Undercover: ACTA & the Web for Internet Evolution and he

Other excellent sources of information about A.C.T.A. include the digital liberty proponents: