ACTA and you

Those visiting this site are either non-blogging readers, fellow bloggers or google searchers, with a few other categories represented in the remaining 1%.

Of these, only the non-blogging reader, providing he’s not involved in any sort of output of a literary or journalistic nature, might think he or she need not initially worry about ACTA.  Eventually though, as this article at the Mises Institute shows, it becomes everyone’s concern.

Which brings me to one of this blog’s more unpopular traits and that is to examine us, ourselves, the ones who are actually bringing you all this combined “wisdom”.

Though self-examination is a wonderful thing, there are not all that many who like to be scrutinized in any depth but I would suggest that the authority of our pronouncements depends on us recognizing our blemishes and factoring them into what we write about.

Those who are behind the worldwide push, e.g. through ACTA, to encroach on, restrict and eventually suppress freedom of speech and action, work on certain principles which have never let them down yet:

1.  If people are not presented with something, they’ll never know about it, i.e. they won’t go out of their way to find out;

2.  If it is presented, people want the short summary version, not the whole tome; therefore, to introduce something unpopular, one hides it in amongst a thousand acronyms and sub-bodies and lets the documentation run to hundreds and thousands of pages;

3.  One of the ways in which people are presented with ideas and reports on events is through the modern phenomenon of the internet – therefore this medium, though contained to an extent already, needs to be monitored, legislated for and restricted, so that only certain points of view make it through.

In the words of the von Mises article:

“The Internet and other personal technologies have been the saving grace of the past 20 years. In every other respect, Western societies in 2010 look much more dysfunctional and tyrannical than they did in 1990.”

When the blogosphere goes under, that is the watershed which marks the slide into totalitarianism in the west.

4.  People are actuated by self-interest, both protective and speculative.  Therefore, if it is perceived it does not personally affect them, then they’re happy to skip over it, click out and not cry out.  The PTB rely on this self-centredness to bring in all manner of legislation by the back door.

We all know the quote by Pastor Martin Niemöller:

They came first for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.  Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.  Then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.  Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.

And let’s add Martin Porter’s 2002 examination of Burke to that:

Perpetrators, collaborators, bystanders, victims: we can be clear about three of these categories. The bystander, however, is the fulcrum. If there are enough notable exceptions, then protest reaches a critical mass. We don’t usually think of history as being shaped by silence, but, as English philosopher Edmund Burke said, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.’

Certain members of the Albion Alliance were surprised when not all that many of those in sympathy actually took up the challenge and addressed the politicians directly, using our tools.  On the other hand, every PPC was aware and many developed pat, marginalizing rhetoric to deal with such as us, leading to and relying on, as Norman Tebbit said, us having “no traction”.

I’m certainly not going to motivate anyone to do anything about ACTA because I’m too critical for my own good and people don’t like that.  So be it – that’s me.  It needs an astute motivator and leader to take up this baton and rally people to oppose what ACTA actually represents.

I’ll summarize this further on.

5.  People will always respond to an injustice, inhumane act, some sort of inanity, which Julia M is in the business of exposing or perhaps to some general state of unfairness, e.g. wheelie-bin crime but this outrage will only last for a certain period, during which time, any action which is to be taken must be taken.  In the hands of Them, if there is a feeling that intellectual property rights are being infringed, i.e. that your own work is being stolen, then you’ll support the suppression of these pirates … but only until you start finding out about the side-effects.

I have my work stolen on a regular basis and assume that it is going to be stolen.  In fact, through such stealing, the ideas are disseminated but to me and most likely to you too, the definition of stealing is “not to attribute”.

One of the worst examples was a South American blog which stole my whole Over 40s Parade and posted it on her own blog, as her own.  When I contacted her, I was ignored.  On the other hand, lawyers for that television Dreyfus woman in the U.S. issued me with a takedown notice and I duly took down the offending image.  The purported owner of an image with kids drunk and throwing up in the street wanted it taken down and that was fine too.

ACTA though goes much, much further than that.  It authorizes governments to act arbitrarily to take up proceedings, whether or not there has been any complaint.

That’s the issue.

Some comments from Gennady Stolyarov II, of von Mises, quoting Ayn Rand’s villain Dr. Floyd Ferris from Atlas Shrugged:

There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted — and you create a nation of law-breakers — and then you cash in on guilt.[1]

The issue, in our case, is the exploitation of ACTA, not its ostensible basis of fair play for creators of intellectual property:

While the current judicial system’s treatment of intellectual property has certainly been flawed, when compared to ACTA, it is a shining example of respect for individual rights. Over the years, a number of fair-use exemptions to copyright law have been carved out by the courts to protect individuals seeking to use portions of copyrighted material for research, teaching, satire, and debate — among other worthwhile purposes. ACTA would greatly roll back the scope of fair use and would largely take the questions out of national judicial systems and into the scope of an international enforcement body specifically created by the treaty.

An organization devoted primarily to persecuting copyright infringers will have no … countervailing considerations. The theory of regulatory capture suggests that this body will quickly be co-opted to serve the agendas of the RIAA, MPAA, and other parasites of copyright.

Explicit comments from ACTA negotiators deny that governments would use the treaty to launch massive search efforts by border guards of individual travelers’ laptops and mp3 players. However, the draft treaty and discussion drafts nevertheless do contain provisions authorizing exactly this sort of search.

Is this hysteria over supposed invasions of privacy or is there a basis for being concerned about ACTA?

Under ACTA, the very suspicion or allegation of having downloaded or even accessed copyrighted material online would render one’s computer open to search without a warrant. Fines and other penalties would apply to refusing permission for a search, while anyone consenting to a search would almost certainly be found guilty of some “infringement” or another. Under ACTA, even viewing a website containing material that infringes a copyright — without the viewer being aware of said infringement’s existence — would be considered aiding and abetting the infringement.

Case study

Leaving aside the highly publicized [alleged] bullying tactics of such groups as Getty Images, take the contributors to this blog.  The responsibility for this blog resides with the webmaster, me and so, if one of the contributors were to include an image or make a statement which someone out there might consider his own, the usual way is for a takedown request to be issued and this is more often than not polite and yet firm.

Not a problem – my contributors are protected but I do ask them to embed their sources in images they use.  If they quote someone, they need to attribute.  There is a fairly gentlemanly way the whole thing is done, although the way youtube operates drives one to despair.

As Gennady says:

Thousands of creators on YouTube, whose works contained no copyrighted materials, have for years been served DMCA takedown notices by fanatics who intensely disagreed with their ideas.

However, the bottom line is that, under DMCA provisions and the like:

… a holder of “intellectual property rights” is at least formally required to gather evidence of any infringement and submit a grievance.

Not so under ACTA.

If the contributor puts up a quote or image which is not specifically and explicitly applied for from the supposed copyright holder or “owner of the intellectual property”, a much more vague term, then that owner need do nothing, need not apply for redress but a government agency itself or a corporation, if it has some target in mind, can assign employees or contract someone to search for anything which can be remotely construed as an infringement.

Not only does the webmaster get sued for what the contributor did but the airtime provider, the host, the contributor him/herself and even you for viewing this image “can” be pursued by the full weight of the law.  So, if you’re a high profile critic of the government or of a certain corporation and you visit my site and view material there you might be in sympathy with or even not in sympathy with, then I and anyone else associated with me can be sued.

And anyone reading my site is on the list.

This is within the ACTA provisions, particularly, as mentioned on Ian’s post, the way this is being interpreted by the EU for its own situation.

Now, as Gennady concedes, the PTB are not going to generally run around suing people, apart from a few test cases to cow the individual into a feeling that at any time, if he dares to view material of any form and if it is unsuitable for the PTB, then he/she can be criminally pursued.  As you and I know full well that this is going to be used only to suppress criticism of the actions of the PTB and you’d have to admit, that is a pretty powerful deterrent.

You, the reader, are being threatened with criminalization if you dare click into my site or Ian’s and it works on the basis, doesn’t it, that for most people, it’s better to be safe than sorry.  I stress that this hasn’t happened yet and you’re still safe to view my site but as I mentioned in last evening’s post, this was discussed by the EU on Tuesday and Wednesday and is about to go into practice – with no Eurowide debate, no publicity, no hearing of evidence from all sides, no gathering of opinion, no nuffink.

Does anyone care enough to act on ACTA?


Updated at IPJ [Thurs morn]:

Well the dumb-asses went and did it. MEPs passed a resolution effectively approving the ACTA with 331 votes in favour, 294 against, and 11 abstentions.

2 comments for “ACTA and you

  1. fake
    November 25, 2010 at 16:32

    Nothing much to add that I havent already said, but it is events such as these that are the reason call myself fake.

    It’s only a matter of time until the EU starts prosecuting people for what they say online, this I have always believed.

  2. Patrick Harris
    November 25, 2010 at 16:43

    Fake – Any statistical evidence for that?, or do you just, you know,- KNOW?

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