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Meet ACTA: It's Like SOPA And PIPA On Steroids

Ryan Shaw |
January 26, 2012 | 11:09 p.m. PST

Staff Columnist

First SOPA, now ACTA. (Screenshot)
First SOPA, now ACTA. (Screenshot)
Meet the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). It's the latest attempt to censor the Internet, and it's coming to a country near you. 

What ACTA is.  ACTA is a lot like SOPA and PIPA, two anti-piracy bills that millions of Americans protested against in recent days.  The difference is that ACTA isn't just an American law, but an international trade agreement to "stop the proliferation of copyrighted material." It has been signed by United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea.  In order to stop the spread of pirated material, the agreement would create international standards for intellectual property rights laws and it would enforce these standards using a governing body outside of normal governing bodies such as the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. 

What ACTA has the power to do.  Under ACTA, an Internet service provider can be held liable for any content that either displays or links to pirated material. How can this affect you? Let's imagine a hypothetical situation where someone posts a link to an illegally downloaded song on Facebook. Then, let's assume an Internet service provider, such as Time Warner Cable, is notfied by the new ACTA established committee that it had to deny it's users access to Facebook because of that link. Now, because of one link, millions of people can potentially be denied access to the most popular social network in the world. 

Dangers of ACTA. According to the Free Software Foundation, ACTA would make it harder to share free software legitamately. The Firefox Internet Browser is an example of such free software.  ACTA would make programs like Firefox harder to obtain because it threatens to shut down grassroots file sharing technology like BitTorrent, which allows people to share large amounts of legitamte free software. ACTA also creates a culture of suspicion and censorship on the last great bastion of global freedom, the World Wide Web.  ACTA would plant the seed of action for a fundamentally different Internet where freedom of expression may be prosecuted under the guise of copyright infringement.      

How ACTA can be stopped. There is still time to act if you are as worried about your liberties as I am. ACTA, like all international trade agreements, need to be presented to the European Parliament for a vote. A number of committees are providing their opinions on the text of the agreement before it reaches a vote. If you are against ACTA you can leave the International Trade Commitee a message here

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