ACTA dead

July 6th, 2012 at 1:14 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The European Parliament overwhelmingly defeated an international anti-piracy trade agreement on Wednesday after concern that it would limit Internet freedom sparked street protests in cities across Europe.

The vote – 39 in favour, 478 against, with 165 abstentions – appeared to deal the death blow to the European Union’s participation in a treaty it helped negotiate, though other countries may still participate without the EU.

I think this shows the strength of global opposition to unbalanced regimes, as pushed by the US entertainment industry. But to have barely 5% of the European Parliament vote in favour is incredible, especially when you consider the details of .

The failure to ratify the treaty is a humiliation for the European Union, which was one of the prime movers in the multi-year effort to negotiate the agreement. EU officials had maintained that ACTA would change nothing in European law, but would be simply an instance of the EU leading by example and exporting its strong copyright protection laws to other countries where safeguards are weaker.

This is the astonishing thing. The final version of ACTA was in fact relatively benign. The draft versions pushed by the US had some draconian provisions, but the New Zealand Government, and other Governments, insisted that there be nothing in there that would require a significant change to our copyright laws. Eventually the US backed down, and the final version is, well as I said, fairly benign.

What New Zealand politicians should reflect on is if even a relatively benign copyright agreement such as ACTA can provoke such opposition that only 5% of the European Parliament will vote for it, think what electoral fate would await politicians who vote for a truly horrendous copyright regime?

The New Zealand Government is currently negotiating the agreement with the US and a dozen or so other countries. The draft US chapter on intellectual property laws and especially copyright is even worse than the draft ACTA chapter was – and exponentially worse than the final ACTA agreement. Think the difference between a poodle and a pack of African Wild Dogs. Rick Shera summarised it here:

  • Rights holders would be allowed to prevent parallel imports
  • Massive extension of copyright terms, from life of author plus 50 years, to 70 years
  • Circumventing a Technological Protection Measure (TPM) will to be a criminal offence even if the work it protects is in the public domain
  • The return of s92A guilt on accusation, repeat infringer, termination of internet accounts
  • Forcing us to reverse the decison recently taken to exclude software patents
  • Introducing statutory damages (which give rights holders windfall damages up to 3 times their actual losses)
  • ISP policing of IP rights incuding a requirement for ISPs to give up their customers’ identities when they receive a mere allegation
  • Criminal liability even where the infringement has no commercial value at all
  • Pushing Courts to impose imprisonment as the default sentence for infringement even where no monetary benefit is obtained

The US IP chapter would also see Internet caching effectively made illegal. It really is that bad.

Now the good news is that as with ACTA, the New Zealand Government has been resisting the US IP chapter, as have most other countries. This is a good thing. I am personally a fan of free trade agreements and would love the TPP to be concluded reducing trade barriers. But not if the price is agreeing to the US IP chapter.

TPP is more difficult than ACTA. In ACTA, New Zealand was not really seeking anything in return – so it was easy to stay firm. In the TPP, all countries have wish lists, so it is inevitable that at some stage there may be some compromises made at a senior political level.

The clear message to the United States has to be that if even a benign copyright agreement such as ACTA can’t get agreement and ratification, then they have to realise that there is no way the TPP can include the IP chapter they are pushing. It would be an electoral suicide pact.

Even in the US itself, unbalanced copyright laws have been turning toxic. SOPA and PIPA got voted down in Congress. Every single Republican Presidential candidate denounced them.

I am not one of those people who are anti-copyright.  I am all for there being penalties for people who copy a song/book/movie rather than pay for it. But the laws need to be balanced, and they need to not screw over the Internet.

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10 Responses to “ACTA dead”

  1. Lucia Maria (2,474 comments) says:

    There must be some big players pushing for these laws, so I doubt they’ll give up.

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  2. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    There are always alternative options. One (admittedly somewhat extreme) option would be to invite the US to withdraw from TPP if they will not relent on unreasonable demands. IIRC the US wasn’t originally a party to TPP, but allowed to join in someway down the tack. The other parties could choose to conclude an agreement between the original parties only.

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  3. Kleva Kiwi (289 comments) says:

    Yes these laws where ridiculous at best, and got rightly voted down, on the back of public opinion. The US is its own worst enemy here. If they had tried to legislate international law protecting the basics, as you point out, illegal copying of songs/movies/books etc then public opinion would not have been so polarised. As it is, it is unlikley any effective measures will be legislated for a long while due to the whiff of this reform. I am still amazed at how many 18-35 year olds believe they are entitled to download songs etc for free based on the premise they would never have listened to them if they had to pay for them. Generation Entitlement….

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  4. peterwn (3,277 comments) says:

    I was with a few others when copyright was being discussed, and someone commented why NZ was so reluctant to want to enforce copyright. I then mentioned that Disney had successfully lobbied the US Government to extend copyright when the Mickey Mouse copyright ran out and why should other nations also extend copyright at the behest of the USA entertainment industry. Point was taken. I should have mentioned that Disney also played very hard ball with its Peter Pan copyright licence over the years eg scaring off a movie maker who in the 1960’s wanted to make a Peter Pan movie with actors.

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  5. alloytoo (546 comments) says:

    Perhaps somebody should slip a private members bill in providing for copyright infringement insurance.

    An insurance, proceeds of which are distributed the entertainment industry which immune’s private persons from criminal copyright infringement legislation.

    It’s vitally important that governments push enforcement of copyright back into the civil domain. Our tax paid police have better things to do.

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  6. Weihana (4,557 comments) says:

    Kleva Kiwi,

    I am still amazed at how many 18-35 year olds believe they are entitled to download songs etc for free based on the premise they would never have listened to them if they had to pay for them. Generation Entitlement….

    Why is that any more arbitrary than saying that because an author has been dead for 50 or 70 years then we may use their intellectual creation freely without compensation to the estate/descendents?

    The only premise that is needed to justify illegal downloading is the lack of necessity for its prohibition. Prolific downloading has not seen the demise of the industry and music. Indeed the industry is as strong as it has ever been. The industry has been forced to adapt and diversify their revenue streams and life goes on.

    Copyright is supposed to represent a mutually beneficial relationship between the consumer and the artist. The artist is granted such rights to provide creative incentive. The fact that copyrights can exist 50 to 70 years after the death of the author exemplifies how people have disregarded the philosophical foundation and justification for copyright law. Having rights 50 or 70 years after death has no value in terms of creative incentive. It completely undermines the relationship between artists and consumers and awards benefits to rights holders to the detriment of consumers. As soon as copyright law seeks to reward artists to the detriment of consumers then consumers have no rational incentive to follow the law.

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  7. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    A very good post, DPF.
    I agree. It was great to see ACTA knocked back, but (as you say) the TPP is much, much worse. It is utterly draconian and totalitarian – it is that bad.
    It’ll take some doing to get rid of.

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  8. Maaik (33 comments) says:

    Do we really need the USA to make the TPP work? There are plenty of trading nations that will do better in a market that leaves the USA to rot on the vine of its own creation, trading with those who kowtow to its unashamedly pro-self trading laws.

    New Zealand needs to look ahead to the next 50 years, and establish trading relations with the nations that will be the world leaders then. I suspect the USA will run out of money soon, and when you do not have cash to build weapons, you are not a superpower any more.

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  9. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    At first I thought ‘everyone knows this already.’ Then I realised the title wan’t a typo. . . .

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  10. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    yada yada yada, I realise I am now a U.S. fan girl but the U.S has created a lot of value and certain industries want not to be robbed of it, or worse, have it all effectively socialized with only a verbal smack on the bottom for persistent infringers. However, the pendulum does need to swing back the way of the consumer. Patents should be absolutely inforced but the proposed lifetime should come down, to 10 -20 years. The caching issue should be easy to circumvent.

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