ACTA Anti-Piracy Treaty Not As Horrible as Feared

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After years of secret negotiations the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is as good as finalized. What was once feared to become a treaty that would give unprecedented powers to the global copyright lobby, has been watered down to a few pages of widely interpretable recommendations. First impressions reveal that not much will change with regard to file-sharing.

More than two years after we introduced ACTA as a treaty that “seeks to turn the Internet into a virtual police state”, the (near) final text of the controversial trade agreement has been released today. While the fears were real at the time, ACTA has evolved into a much more acceptable agreement now that all negotiations are over.

Many of the measures that were on the wish list of the RIAA and the U.S. Government have been scrapped along the way. What’s left is a treaty that enables governments to implement all kinds of anti-piracy measures, but forces none of the participating countries to do so.

One of the more controversial paragraphs, where countries would be obliged to impose secondary liability on Internet Service Providers for copyright infringements carried out by their customers, was removed earlier last month and didn’t return in the final draft. Previously, ISPs would be held liable when they failed to respond swiftly to ‘notice and takedown’ requests from copyright holders.

With regard to file-sharing, ACTA is not going to bring any immediate change to the laws that are already in place in most countries. Even camcording in movie theaters is not going to be criminalized, as it was in previous ACTA drafts.

None of the RIAA’s wild suggestions for ACTA have been implemented either. The music industry pushed hard for a mandatory three-strikes policy to disconnect pirates, but this suggestion never made it into the ACTA drafts. That said, individual countries are free to implement this and other measures on their own.

Many of the other paragraphs, including those related to DRM and border measures, are not as draconian as feared either, leaving room for fair use and other exceptions.

“Taken together, the Internet chapter must be seen as failure by the U.S., which clearly envisioned using ACTA to export its DMCA-style approach,” prof. Michael Geist writes in a brief analysis of the text. “Instead, the treaty leaves much the same flexibility as exists under the WIPO Internet treaties and opens the door to Canadian reforms to the digital lock provisions in Bill C-32.”

Despite ACTA being softer than expected, not all of the participating countries are happy with the final draft. The Mexican senate just voted in favor of pulling out, and the EU parliament remains skeptical.



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