The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, and Protect IP Act, or PIPA, are essentially no more. After many sites blacked out to protest the acts, Congress tabled the vote.
These two acts, if passed, would have allowed the indefinite shutdown of websites that contain any sort of copyrighted material, or links to copyrighted material. Sites like YouTube, Google and any blog or forum fit into this category.
While the battle against SOPA and PIPA came to a climactic end, another lurked in the shadows, growing
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, has been discussed behind closed doors since 2007, when U.S. Ambassador Susan C. Schwab, along with five Congress members who received campaign contributions from major media groups, initiated its push.
These discussions were largely secret. Any information about ACTA pre-2010 came from leaks to the site
ACTA is now public. But the entire bill’s text is available online, and its most oppressing provisions have been picked away. A few of the removed provisions would have forced Internet providers to monitor Internet traffic for piracy at all times and customs agents from all countries to search laptops, MP3 players and CDs for copyrighted material at border crossings and in airports.
Once ACTA’s text was released from the preliminary backdoor dealings, the insanely overbearing provisions were stripped away.
But ACTA still poses a threat to the free and open Internet. ACTA allows media companies and other rights holders to demand the personal data of Internet users from their service providers, without a court order.
This is an improvement, since media companies would have to ask Internet providers “nicely” for your data. Copyright holders are given another tool to coerce information from Internet providers: the threat of slapping them with aiding and abetting charges.
What good business would deny a demand when there are criminal and civil penalties at stake?
The powers that ACTA gives copyright holders over Internet service providers are disturbingly similar to those given to the government in the PATRIOT Act.
Through the PATRIOT Act, government agencies were given the authority to issue a special type of subpoena — one that requires no judicial oversight or probable cause. These subpoenas are issued to Internet providers, among other organizations, and they require recipients to turn over their users’ data. Sound
Why should media companies and other copyright holders get to investigate people suspected of copyright infringement in the same way people suspected of terrorism are investigated by the U.S. government? This is a scary delegation of power to those who we did not elect.
As if ACTA does not already do enough, it also creates an “ACTA committee” that deliberates on all matters ACTA and determines, in conjunction with signatories, whether to add amendments to ACTA.
This essentially writes a blank check to the architects of this agreement, telling them they can remold it in any way they want, deleting protections and adding provisions.
As of now, more than 20 countries have signed ACTA, with the United States being one of the first signatories. Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia and the United Kingdom are a few other noted signers.