Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Europe abandons ACTA

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Now this is what I call a good morning: waking up to the news that the notorious Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), an international treaty that essentially took the SOPA/PIPA approach to combating piracy and then cranked it up to 11 and introduced it to every other country, has been effectively killed by the European Parliament, thus crippling its chances of being ratified anywhere else, either:

The Parliament voted by 478 to 39 to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a move that means it cannot come into force anywhere within the EU. In doing so, it followed the advice given to it by five parliamentary committees and heeded the massive public protests that were sparked by the treaty earlier this year.

ACTA could still become reality elsewhere in the world, but only if six of the eight non-EU countries that have signed it go on to ratify it — an unlikely outcome given the EU's rejection of the agreement. These countries include Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and the US, none of which has ratified ACTA yet.

The treaty was originally predicted to pass with numerous countries signing it, but actually ratifying it became a sour process once word leaked out – particularly thanks to WikiLeaks, as always – about the measure’s overly draconian provisions:

These measures would have criminalised people for filming movies in cinemas with mobile phone cameras, allowed border guards to search iPods for pirated music, and forced ISPs to disconnect their customers for file-sharing.


ACTA demanded the criminalisation of 'commercial-scale' copyright infringement, but its definition of commercial scale was broad enough to turn bloggers putting copyrighted images on their blogs into criminals.

The treaty also criminalised the circumvention of digital rights management (DRM) and introduced a US-style approach to the calculation of damages. This latter measure would have allowed the equation of unlawful downloads with lost sales — a questionable method, as many people download something only to go on and buy it.

That ridiculous notion that “illicit downloads = lost sales” (much less that “copying is theft”) has been debunked so thoroughly, so many times, and by so many people (including numerous experts and concerned artists, themselves) that I’m honestly almost surprised politicians still haven’t cottoned on by now. Then again, one thing lawmakers are known to demonstrate is a remarkable, almost admirable, tenacity in the face of overwhelming opposition by reality itself.

At any rate, I’m just relieved Canada won’t be adopting the U.S.’s ridiculous model anytime soon. Hopefully.

(via @todayspolitics)