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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: How will the new secret copyright treaty impact the entertainment community on the Internet?

Boing Boing broke down the details last week:

The internet chapter of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a secret copyright treaty whose text Obama’s administration refused to disclose due to “national security” concerns, has leaked. It’s bad. It says:

• That ISPs have to proactively police copyright on user-contributed material. This means that it will be impossible to run a service like Flickr or YouTube or Blogger, since hiring enough lawyers to ensure that the mountain of material uploaded every second isn’t infringing will exceed any hope of profitability.

• That ISPs have to cut off the Internet access of accused copyright infringers or face liability. This means that your entire family could be denied to the internet — and hence to civic participation, health information, education, communications, and their means of earning a living — if one member is accused of copyright infringement, without access to a trial or counsel.

• That the whole world must adopt US-style “notice-and-takedown” rules that require ISPs to remove any material that is accused — again, without evidence or trial — of infringing copyright. This has proved a disaster in the US and other countries, where it provides an easy means of censoring material, just by accusing it of infringing copyright.

• Mandatory prohibitions on breaking DRM, even if doing so for a lawful purpose (e.g., to make a work available to disabled people; for archival preservation; because you own the copyrighted work that is locked up with DRM)

Michael Geist, a Canadian law professor and expert in the Internet and e-commerce, is covering the treaty in detail at his blog. Rob Enderle at TechNewsWorld had this, in part, to say, and though it repeats some of Boing Boing’s points, they are well worth repeating:

Why something like this is kept secret becomes clear when you read the details. It would do horrid things to our privacy, restrict our rights to use media we have purchased, and squelch our ability to be creative. It would turn a huge number of children overnight into criminals and open us to a level of government oversight that would make the Bush administration look liberal by comparison.

ISPs would have to police user content and cut off Internet access and remove content when accusations of infringement were made, eliminating presumption of innocence and making the ISP into a law enforcement body. It would apparently kill fair use; you couldn’t even copy protected work that you originated (your own work). It would potentially override local laws and eliminate civil liberties — and none of this has been publicly vetted.

It takes the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), one of the worst laws ever enacted when it comes to citizen rights, and effectively increases its authority both in depth and breadth, to cover more geographic areas and eliminate existing safe harbors.

Obviously, if this treaty becomes law, the impact will be felt across the Internet — across our entire culture both online and off. But what specific ripple effects will be felt with regards to movies, TV, DVD, the people who make them, and those of us who consume them and talk about them? How will the new secret copyright treaty impact the entertainment community on the Internet?

Obviously it will mean the end of YouTube, because no company will have the resources to vet hundreds of thousands of user contributions. Will it mean the end of Internet criticism, when all it will take to shut down a critic is an accusation — even an unfounded one — of copyright infringement… perhaps by quoting too many lines of dialogue or lyrics? Will all the freedoms we’ve discovered in being our own book and magazine publishers, movie studios, and record labels suddenly disappear… or only most of them?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • doa766

    it’s meanningless in my opinion, they will try a few more times until they realize that they can’t control the internet

    loved the part that says “That the whole world must adopt US-style “notice-and-takedown” rules

    lol, good luck with that, I’m sure Venezuela and Libya are very eager to follow suit, not to mention countless other countries who don’t give a crap what US thinks they should do

    the internet is global and these lawmakers are having a hard time getting that fact through their thick skulls

    this is just like those laws making homosexual activity ilegal, besides the obvious fact that it’s wrong and stupid there’s no way to practically enforce it

  • AJP

    I doubt it has much chance of holding up to begin with. The problem is that it steps on too many toes of groups that have too much money invested to let this pass, or go unchallenged. Google paid $1.65 billion for YouTube. Facebook is reportedly worth hundreds of millions of dullars, if not more. Does anyone seriously think that they aren’t going to be lobbying hard against a bill that will serve to wipe out that investment? Or that in the unliekly event that it passes they won’t challenge the law on Constitutional grounds (substantive due process most likely).

    Syepping on the toes of people who have real money invested in social networking sites is not going to be easily done.

  • Paul

    If you couldn’t even copy your own work, then that pretty much shuts down the whole shebang except for email, chatting, and Internet gaming.

  • chuck

    It’ll never happen. Too big, too complex, too late, too many players, not well thought out.

    More worrisome is the governments need to keep this a secret. What is this? The German DDR.

    Really, this is government making treaties that cause havoc in our modern day life all to appease a few big business interests.

    A couple of old links of Hope, Change and Transparency that never saw this coming.



    Just when I think I’m being too harsh on the current government, something comes along a snaps me back to reality.

  • Paul

    Yeah, Chuck, I hope you’re right. If it does pass, I hope the Supremes cut it down to reasonable size. Which leads me to wonder what authority the Court has over international treaties that infringe on civil rights?

  • Bluejay

    Just when I think I’m being too harsh on the current government, something comes along a snaps me back to reality.

    Damn! And I thought I was brainwashing you so well. :-)

    Does anyone know how a treaty like this gets ratified? Is it an executive agreement or would it require the Senate’s approval?

  • JoshB

    I checked Wikipedia (which we all know is always reliable), apparently it’s by executive agreement.

  • shaun

    If only they would put this much effort into fighting cybercrime; Unlike this nonsense, cybercrime actually can threaten national security AND costs nations and industry far more than copyright infringements.
    Im talking real money too, like when your company has to shut down for a week because of a virus. Not RIAA blown way out of proportion imaginary numbers.

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