Bill Totten's Weblog

Friday, January 21, 2011

What is ACTA and Why Should I Care?

ACTA is an international treaty that threatens freedom and privacy of Internet users just like you.

ACTA is the abbreviation for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, an international agreement to establish new standards on enforcing intellectual property rights. ACTA would create a separate governing body outside of existing international organizations, including WTO (World Trade Organization), WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) and the UN (United Nations).

Though the bulk of the negotiations and resulting documents have been kept secret with virtually no transparency, it is clear from both the leaked and released statements and documents that ACTA has the potential to infringe upon privacy, civil liberties, legitimate commerce, innovation and freedom on the internet.

It aims to solve copyright infringement problems by dealing harsh punishment to people ACCUSED copyright infringement WITHOUT warrant or trial.


ACTA forces your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to act like a toll gate keeper and monitor your activity.

The agreement states that any Internet Service Providers must actively police user activity and remove their access to the Internet if any person is MERELY ACCUSED of copyright infringement or else they (the ISPs) face liability

What does this mean for me?

Think about it. Your entire family could lose access to the Internet if one person is accused of copyright infringement. This takes away your family's right to:

* Civic Participation

* Educational Material

* Health Information

* Communications

* Means of Earning a Living

But my nation's laws prevent this, right?

Wrong! International treaties are ABOVE the laws and constitution of your nation.

How many nations are involved in this proposition?

37 nations are involved in the ACTA negotiations, including Australia, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, United States, the EU, Switzerland and Japan.

If you want to learn more, keep the Internet free, or are concerned about your rights, visit

ACTA is dangerous because:

1. It makes it more difficult to distribute free software: Without file sharing and Peer to Peer (P2P) technologies like BitTorrent, distributing large amounts of free software becomes much harder, and more expensive. BitTorrent is a grassroots protocol that allows everyone to contribute to legally distributing free software.

2. It will make it harder for users of free operating systems, such as Linux-based to play media. Consumers are no longer allowed to buy media without DRM and DRM'ed media cannot be played with free software.

3. It allows your devices to be taken away without any explanation whatsoever as part of random security checks. Devices suspected of including pirated material and/or copyright infringements will also be confiscated and searched. Not only is this an invasion of Privacy, this could mean restricted to people carrying digital equipment. This means that bringing an iPod or a laptop through airport security could cost hours off your time. This is not only restricted to digital device carriers. This extends the time required for the average check-in up to seventy percent, assuming one in ten people receive a searched media Device.

4. ACTA requires that existing ISPs no longer host free software that has the possibility of including copyrighted media; this would substantially affect many sites that offer free software or host software projects such as SourceForge and Most software we use on our computers are free. Are we to pay the price because of a misleading treaty?

5. Part of the ACTA treaty states that import generic medicine are to be restricted and controlled. This could have disastrous effects that will cost lives, especially in developing countries. The majority of medicinal companies do not supply medicine to third world countries. This is because more profit can be made by selling it to the richer countries where we live. Most medicines received in third world countries are imported by concerned people and charity groups. If ACTA is to be approved, these medicines would be confiscated for "security" reasons (in order to maintain a monopoly). Should these people die because of our current inaction and unwillingness to act against ACTA?

6. If ACTA is implemented, privacy on the internet is no longer a given. Internet Service Providers will be forced to monitor what websites you visit and what you type, search and do. People have a basic right to privacy that this treaty clearly ignores. Are you willing to pay this price?

7. ACTA gives governments and ISP's the right to block websites deemed "unsuitable". There are no clear guidelines as to what is deemed suitable or unsuitable. Do you honestly believe that this power will not be abused for political and economical gain. China has used the same excuse to censor the internet. Concurrently, China has far banned, and Does this seem like national security?

8. This treaty will not prevent piracy. This is an ineffective and ridiculous agreement that will only harm the common people, not the pirated goods trade. Again, China is an example. Most websites and Peer to Peer networks are blocked. Yet China has one of the most rampant piracy industries in the world. Why? Because piracy will always find another medium. Only we will suffer.

We cannot sit by and watch this happen. The Internet is a tremendous source of genuine free speech where ideas and criticisms are not limited by the whims of other people. We must stop this now, before it passes. Before it's too late.

Bill Totten


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