It's been said that "all good things must come to an end." That phrase certainly holds true now. It seems like it's only been a month since the changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) were passed by Congress, allowing us to jailbreak our phones as well as other things that should have always been part of our rights as consumers. No longer could we be told what we could or could not do with our own property. However that brief respite has basically come to an end thanks to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Now on the surface ACTA actually doesn't sound like a bad idea. At its core it's an international institution similar to but seperate from organizations like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. Its purpose, "to establish international standards on intellectual property rights enforcements." Which in itself isn't such a bad thing, the U.S. alone loses around $200 billion each year as a result of the fake goods being traded on the global scale and plenty of artists have had their work stolen and used for profit without any hope for legal action. The problem however, comes with semantics, and what's being specified as intellectual theft in this agreement.
In order to placate the public, the participating countries released a joint statement claiming "the agreement would not require its members to take steps that violate fundamental rights and liberties." That statement alone is reason for monumental levels of worrying, "not required" means that while this agreement won't force nations to violate your natural rights to privacy, it certainly will allow them to do so if they so please. According to U.S. officials, the agreement should not require any changes to U.S. laws, meaning Congress wouldn't have to approve it. Which brings about the question, what exactly are the provisions of this pact? The fear is that it might allow customs officials to seize any device storing pirated materials such as laptops, mp3 players, phones, personal media players, handheld game systems, as well as generic versions of patented drugs. (Oh wait what was that last one? Generic medications!?)
Of course since you can't just look at a device and know it has pirated material, this means officials can search through your devices and personal property if they find you suspicious. Opening up a whole other can of worms if the officials aren't people of integrity. Officials with a lack of moral fiber you say? Well that's never been an issue in the past, I'm sure we have nothing to worry about... right? Under ACTA anyone accused of copyright infringement will be made to compensate the profit loss of the affected company. No big deal right? Just pay the cost of the "item" and go about your day. Unfortunately that's not what they meant. The Recording Industries Association of America (RIAA) recently sued a 12 year old girl as well as many others for downloading music, and they want $150,000 USD for each song on allofmp3.com. ACTA wants harsher punishments for these "CRIMINALS". This agreement is not for your benefit, it's for the benefit of big industry.
For all those out there who feel that this agreement is going to be made as fair as possible keep this in mind, laws are subject to interpretation and as such can very easily go horribly wrong from a simple misused or misplaced word. An incident that illustrates just how badly the law can be interpreted happened not too long ago actually. Texas tried to ban gay marriage and instead made all marriages illegal in their state. With an agreement like this between so many different nations, open to so many interpretations, there's so much that can go wrong. With just the provisions we know about right now there is so much that can go wrong. If they can confiscate generic drugs based on their similarity to patented drugs, it's not so far-fetched to think that one day you might be arrested for your knock-off brand cereals or your fan art, because Ichigo is the intellectual property of Tite Kubo and you've just stolen his work.
It's blatantly obvious that our privacy and freedom is at stake but what else is actually being threatened? Below we have compiled a very surprising list.
- Your Privacy – Think going through the airport is violating now? Wait until they search EVERYTHING you own for pirated data. And we haven't even gotten to ISPs being required to monitor ALL of your online activities in order to enforce these laws, since they will be responsible for "allowing" you to download not-so-legal things.
- Your Money – Your ISP watching you is more work for them. So they will charge you for it (and those nasty little legal fees they incur when you download illegal things or someone sues them for violating their no-longer existent rights.)
- Your Health – How can that happen? Well generic drugs are contraband under ACTA. So increase that insurance premium (assuming you have insurance, if you don't just don't get sick) and if you happen to be traveling with your medication... try not to die when they confiscate it.
- Your Video Quality – Under ACTA free and open source media software such as VLC, MPC & the CCCP project would be illegal since all purchased media must be DRMed (any non-purchased media must be piracy) and open source software can't use DRM technology.
- Your Freedom – ACTA gives governments and ISPs the right to block websites deemed "unsuitable" (a word that isn't defined in the agreement). That opens the doors to your government acting like China and banning anything they don't want you to see. (Note: There is no YouTube, Facebook, Blogspot in China.)
As you can see this is a very serious matter. (Which is why it was kept secret from the public, classified as a National Security Secret by the Obama Administration, until leaked by government officials against this violation of human rights.) It'd be a crime to sit by and let this occur. After all this won't stop actual piracy but will certainly trample on our rights. So what can we do to stop this menace? We can sign a petition, harass our policy makers (Congressmen, Senators, Canadian MPs) and most importantly spread the word. The more people who know, the less likely this ugly, human rights violating, privacy-stomping agreement is to pass.
Editor's Note: This article was written by squarepheonix and AdminX after a reader made us aware of ACTA. Please share and distribute this article to the best of your ability. This article may be reposted (so long as its origin, leetneet.com, is cited) without permission.
The Swedish Pirate Party (a political party in Sweden devoted to privacy and copyright reforms) first started a movement to keep The Pirate Bay, one of the world's largest torrent sites, running when they volunteered to give the website bandwidth. Then in July, they actually began to host the site from within the Swedish Parliament, using their immunity. Now, working with technology partners, they plan to launch what they call the world's first Pirate ISP. This will deliver broadband connections to customers who share the same interests as the Pirate Party.
Thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the U.S. Copyright Office has made major changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). These changes put the freedom of what's done with the technology they own, back into the consumers hands.
The following is now officially declared legal:
- Jailbreaking your phone
- Installing "unapproved" 3rd party apps (as long as the app itself is legal!)
- Unlocking your phone in order to switch carriers
- Ripping DVDs
- Cracking copy protected video games
NOTE: These are only legal if it's for your own personal use! Distribution is still illegal!
The DMCA goes up for re-evaluation every 3 years and the EFF took this opportunity to press the point that it's your phone and what you do with it should be up to you, the consumer, instead of dictated by the provider. More information on the specific details of these new rights to come.
Last month, when news broke that a multi-national coalition of Japanese and U.S. publishers had announced plans to combat scanlation in an effort to save their dying industry, many people worried that their favorite manga reading sites would be taken away. Those fears have been realized. OneManga, one of the top ranking sites that host scanlations has announced it will be shutting it's doors in one week. This came as a shock to the internet community and many patrons of the site.
The internet is facing the loss of its freedoms once again, except this time it's from an unlikely source, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D). This Thursday, Sen. Lieberman proposed a bill to the senate that would grant the President (of the United States) the power to seize control of and even shutdown the internet in times of emergency.
New Hampshire State House Representative Nick Lavesseur (pictured above) is in hot water over a status update he posted on facebook. In which he wrote:
"Anime is a prime example of why two nukes just wasn't enough,"
"I would like to deeply apologize for the insensitivity of this post. It was a poorly thought out comment, posted jest on my private facebook page. It was never intended to be viewed by anyone other than friends. This, of course, does not excuse the comment. This type of statement has no place in public or private discourse. It does not represent any true opinion, political or personal. My record in the New Hampshire House shows a commitment to equality and social justice. It is a record of which I am most proud. This comment is a disappointment not only to the people of New Hampshire, whom it has been my privilege to serve, but also to my own beliefs and moral code."
Check out the local news coverage below the jump and be sure to tell us what you think in the comments.
Step aside RIAA, a coalition of publishers with the goal of stopping manga piracy is about to take center-stage. On June 8, a multi-national coalition of Japanese and U.S. publishers announced plans to deal with the unauthorized scanning and translation of manga material (a.k.a. Scanlation). The newly formed coalition intends to pool together it's legal resources and "actively seek legal remedies to this intellectual property theft."