Bill Totten's Weblog

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (August 03 2010)

There's a new international fake free trade treaty. It's the "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement" (ACTA). Evil laws are always given noble-sounding names. A more accurate name is "The Mainstream Media Corporate Welfare Agreement".

These economic terrorists say "This treaty is an open and democratic process". However, they refuse to release the drafts and details.

"It's an international 'free trade' treaty!" is a convenient catch-phrase for circumventing individual countries' laws. Most "free trade treaties" are actually "corporate welfare treaties". That's one reason people falsely believe free markets are evil.

"Intellectual property" is not property. A pro-State troll says "WTF? How will artists get paid?" The artist can directly solicit donations from fans. The artist can make most of their money from live performances. Some independent artists are already successful at this, without the backing of the mainstream media cartel.

There's already a group of people that steal artists' work without paying. They're called "record company executives". Via "Hollywood Accounting", the artist usually never sees $1 in royalties, even for a smash hit. A new band is locked up in a long-term contract, before the media cartel will promote their music. A pro-State troll says "The artist voluntarily signed the contract!" The State media cartel gives unreasonable power to corporations. Twenty years ago, the only way to get a song published was via the media cartel. Now, some independents are directly self-publishing on the Internet and bypassing the media cartel.

The media cartel feels threatened, because the Internet threatens their business model. The "solution" is to crack down on freedom on the Internet.

What are the provisions of the ACTA? This analysis is based on drafts and rumors.

The ACTA changes copyright infringement from civil to criminal. Now, a copyright infringer can only be sued by the copyright owner. After ACTA, copyright infringement will be a crime.

It's the usual "cartel externalizes enforcement costs to the State". If the RIAA/MPAA had to maintain their own spying network and private army, it wouldn't be profitable {*}. Instead, they lobby the State to enforce their cartel.


The ACTA has a "three strikes" provision. If you're guilty of copyright infringement three times, then your ISP terminates your service and you're barred from purchasing Internet access. The UK already has such a law. (The Anonymous commenter from the UK who frequently comments on "legal extortion" would like that bit.)

It's unclear if "three strikes" is "three convictions for copyright infringement" or "three times accused of copyright infringement". There probably will be an administrative court, with judges chosen by the RIAA/MPAA, separate from the regular legal system. Someone accused of copyright infringement probably won't get due process, when their Internet access is terminated and they're barred from buying Internet access.

The ACTA has an "ISPs are required to spy on users" provision. If an ISP suspects a user of copyright infringement, they are required to rat you out to the State copyright police. There's a "safe harbor" provision for ISPs who spy on their users; the user can't sue for violating their privacy.

If an ISP doesn't enact a "spy on users" program, then they're subject to potential civil and criminal penalties. There's no legal requirement for ISPs to spy on users, but they risk being sued or kidnapped if they fail to comply.

That is like the ironically-named "Bank Secrecy Act". The Bank Secrecy Act requires all banks to report "suspicious transactions" to the IRS and FBI. A bank who rats on its customers is immune from being sued by a customer. The Bank Secrecy Act makes all State-licensed banks into spies for the State. The "Bank Secrecy Act" really is the "Bank Anti-Secrecy Act". Evil laws are always given innocent-sounding names. BTW, the "Patriot Act" amended the "Bank Secrecy Act", imposing stricter requirements on banks.

I don't see how this law is enforceable. People will switch to invitation-only strongly-encrypted filesharing networks. Some people already do this.

A P2P filesharer has a distinct traffic pattern. However, there are legitimate filesharing uses. World of Warcraft distributes updates via BitTorrent. Retrogaming is a grey area. Most old games are legally copyrighted but abandonware.

There's another benefit for the prison/legal cartel. Criminalizing copyright infringement will lead to more people in jail. Most people do some "illegal" P2P filesharing. If the police seize your computer and search for copyrighted material, they will frequently find infringement.

Criminal copyright infringement enhances the Police State's ability to send anyone to jail. Many young people now believe "P2P filesharing is not a crime". The police can seize someone's computer and search for copyright infringement, even if that wasn't the original reason for the search.

The ACTA is an example of State corporate welfare. This "free trade treaty" is a stealth way of imposing freedom-restricting laws. A cartel externalizes enforcement costs to the State. The "incandescent light bulb ban" is another corporate welfare law, implemented via international treaty.

Too many young people are now accustomed to P2P filesharing. They realize that it isn't really a crime. The mainstream media cartel spends a lot of money on propaganda denouncing P2P filesharing. I don't see the mainstream media cartel winning this battle. They're still going to try. The ACTA will lead to lots of frivolous arrests and lawsuits for copyright infringement.

Bill Totten


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