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Unpacking the Secrets of ACTA 169

An anonymous reader writes "As negotiations in the 7th round of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement talks continue this week in Mexico, Michael Geist has been posting a comprehensive guide to the secret copyright treaty. He started with a review of the substance of the treaty, then posted links to all the leaked documentation, and has now unpacked the secrecy associated with the talks, including why governments have made it secret, the public concern, and why this isn't business as usual."
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Unpacking the Secrets of ACTA

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @01:10PM (#30919458) Journal

    One of my problems with regulation is that big business actually welcomes it. Why do you suppose that is? Because they know that it's easier to shut out small businesses that might challenge their business model when you put regulatory hurdles in the marketplace. A large company will have no problem complying with whatever regulations are imposed on it.

    I think you're oversimplifying things with that statement. Take for instance a new regulation in healthcare which states that every healthcare provider shall audit their records daily by hand (no machine automation) in order to reduce the number of errors in prescriptions. It's an outrageous regulation but certainly a small highly specialized practice would have less of a problem implementing than a big behemoth county hospital sitting precariously atop an urban population in downtown metropolis.

    They have legions of lawyers working on compliance and lobbyists in DC working to ensure that the regulations protect their existing business while shutting out competitors.

    I kind of agree with you. However, if you can provide names and conclusive proof and evidence of this, I urge you to submit a complaint to the FTC [] with said details falling under the Sherman Antitrust Act. They actually do take that stuff very seriously.

    The small start up has neither of those advantages.

    They also don't have that overhead or those complications and so should be able to find a niche in the market where people would like a lower priced product and are not afraid of litigation and licensing headaches.

  • by OttoErotic ( 934909 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @01:20PM (#30919610)
    I'm always a little torn on regulation. I can see the virtue in trying to use it to fix a system that's heavily weighted towards corporate interests, but it seems like the law of unintended consequences inevitably causes it to backfire. For instance, I wonder what the real effect of regulating the stock market has been. By making it safer for investors than a total free market, did it artificially create an environment where bloated corporations thrive? It seems to me like people would have been a lot more prone to invest in local, known companies, and that stock prices would be a lot more realistically tied to income and profit if we didn't try to shield people from the inherent danger market investment. Generally I'm a free market guy and would oppose regulation, but I also don't think the current system is the product of a free market; how far can you go to correct an imbalance before you choke out innovation with over regulation?
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @01:24PM (#30919662)

    A particularly large shift for either kind is that ACTA is, in the U.S. at least, not being called a "treaty" at all, although it clearly is. Rather, both the Bush and Obama administrations claim that it can be implemented as an "executive agreement" that does not require Senate ratification.

    On the plus side, an "executive agreement" has only the legal force of an executive order under U.S. domestic law, which is generally subordinate to both statute law and the Constitution (unlike treaties, which have constitutional force). On the down side, it would still be seen as a treaty under international law, so if a future U.S. administration tried to back out of it, that would be perfectly legal under U.S. domestic law (if it were never properly adopted as a formal treaty), but not under international law, setting up a conflict.

  • Revolting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by psYchotic87 ( 1455927 ) <> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @01:37PM (#30919870)

    Frankly, I find this whole business revolting. Several large countries are working on a framework for lawmaking, which would eventually turn into laws all citizens aren't supposed to break.
    The problem with this (and laws in general) is that no single citizen has any idea how not to break the law anymore. Furthermore, I was under the impression that lawmaking within democracies is supposed to be a process where every voting citizen has a say in, directly or indirectly.These ACTA negotiations are essentially about making laws noone but the big shots really want to be enforced.

    To summarize: I believe these negotiations to be utterly and completely undemocratic, unethical and criminal.

  • by denis-The-menace ( 471988 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @01:42PM (#30919936)

    Face it.
    ACTA will only make 2 groups of people:
    -Those care to get a product that is sold as legit is legit. (eg. Those who want a REAL Rolex watch for $5000 not a FAKE one for $5000)
    -Corps that want to make $ at all cost. (cost=Life, liberty, health, happiness, family, progress, etc.)

    ACTA will hurt EVERYBODY ELSE.

  • by Large_Hippo ( 881120 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @02:34PM (#30920836)
    Hmmmm... everyone on here seems to think the secrecy must be because the government is worried about "the public" finding out about horrific terms. That seems unlikely--remember, IP law doesn't even make the top ten of most US voters' important issues. War, health care, income taxes, education, research, crime, terrorism, etc... all trump IP law. So a politician's concern over public negotiations isn't likely to be that it may trigger some vague public discontent. The politician's main concern is that a corporation that cares *immensely* about copyright law will find out that something proposed in the treaty isn't to their liking, and then spend a ton of money to remove that politician from office before the treaty is finalized. Different wealthy corporations have different goals for copyright law (think Google vs. Publishers) and balancing them is probably impossible without making many very mad.

    The treaty might be good, might be bad, and there are lots of reasons to be against secret negotiations (remember, the final treaty has to be presented and voted in public). But assuming that secrecy means the end product MUST be bad seems unfounded. Think of it this way: if you were in charge of the negotiations, and wanted to write the most Slashdot-friendly IP treaty possible, you would HAVE to keep negotiations secret. Otherwise the RIAA et al. would spearhead a $10B campaign calling you soft on crime, mean to elderly people, etc, etc..., removing you from office before the treaty could ever be passed.
  • Re:indeed (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @02:36PM (#30920892)

    I'm a pirate, it slows me down one bit, from one week to one month usually, to 6 months rarely, which doesn't matter because of the huge backlog of stuff I could enjoy, pirated.

    At this rate media is actually fighting for my attention, movie studios should be paying me to watch their stuff.

    Literally so because I don't care about anything the MPAA or the RIAA produce anymore, for the last 10 years, it's mostly Japanese stuff, that is not even released here sometimes, with horrible subs that can't hold a candle to fansubs.

    And yet I watch youtube videos all day.

    Seriously if this stuff was really impossible to pirate they would start giving them off for free., kinda like the google vs newspapers problems, it's a be careful for what you wish for kinda deal.

  • Wrong, sort of (Score:2, Interesting)

    by justinlee37 ( 993373 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @02:42PM (#30921004)

    You're half right and half wrong. They don't like regulation that costs them huge chunks of their profit margins, sure. However like the parent poster suggested, businesses like regulation that makes it hard for new players to enter the market.

    If regulation makes it hard for new businesses to start but is trivially expensive for big business, then they are going to love that. Like say forcing all of the businesses in a particular sector to pay $10,000 for a license. That's nothing to a big company like Microsoft but to us it could mean life or death.

    Imagine if we made it legal to manufacture, sell and serve liquor out of your home without a license as a small business. Do you think that local breweries and bars would support or oppose that decision?

  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @02:50PM (#30921192) Homepage Journal

    > And what is social security? A mild form of socialism.

    The last administration tried to do away with (privatize) social security. One of my pet fears is that the new 2012 administration with same-party Executive and Legislative branches will enact the "Fiscal Responsibility and Recovery Act" that will sunset social security, medicare, medicaid, and who knows, maybe even the FDIC/FSLIC in order to undo the last traces of "Socialist FDR". Of course that *might* correct the deficit problem, if it weren't followed almost immediately by the "Economic Stimulus and Recovery Act" that removed the top tax bracket and sunset capital gains and inheritance taxes - pushing the deficits back up to where they were prior to the two "recovery acts". Except by this time, the federal government would be so small that you could snuff it out with a blanket, or whatever the phrase was.

    > I believe that we've slowly warmed up to the idea that the best economic
    > system lies somewhere between pure capitalism and pure socialism.

    I'm there, and I'll agree that states are moving along the spectrum. But there are strong forces pushing the nation toward pure capitalism - savage, green in tooth and claw. Personally I think/fear it's really heading toward feudalism, not capitalism or socialism.

    > Decentralization of power back to the states is good.

    In theory I can agree with that. The problem in practice is that corporations wield much more economic power relative to the states. Ever watch the states start lifting their skirts whenever a corporation says, "We want to build a new plant." The real problem is the concessions the states make, and there's no guarantee that all of those new jobs won't get outsourced and the plant shut down a few years later.

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @03:31PM (#30922352) Homepage Journal

    I welcome regulation, as long as they're good regulations in the public interest. Take Monsanto, for instance. When I was a kid, you could not drive past the Monsanto plant in Sauget with your windows rolled down, even though it gets damned hot in the summer and few cars had AC. The pollution was horrible; lung-burning horrible. And you couldn't get to St Louis from Cahokia without driving past it.

    After the Clean Air Act was passed, they were forced to clean it up, and rarely do you smell anything while driving past there.

    Look what happened in California after they deregulated power companies.

  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @03:50PM (#30922860)

    What will be the effects of ACTA on citizens?

    The main goal of ACTA is to combat the large counterfeiting and piracy activities which present big risks for public safety and health. The agreement is not meant to intrude in the private sphere of individual citizens. The consequences of counterfeiting and piracy touch everyone and are daily hazards. Counterfeiting and piracy do not only infringe on intellectual property rights and cause enormous economic losses. They present a direct threat to consumer and patient health and safety. ACTA intendes to attack this problem and is only one of various initiatives on the part of Switzerland to fight counterfeiting and piracy.

    Wow, just wow.

  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @04:57PM (#30924436)

    ... everyone on here seems to think the secrecy must be because the government is worried about "the public" finding out about horrific terms. That seems unlikely--remember, IP law doesn't even make the top ten of most US voters' important issues.

    Does it occur to you that perhaps they are trying to keep it that way?

    The more visible copyright becomes, the more it gets discussed in media, and the more it becomes a well-known "issue" the more likely it is that there will be demand for reform. That's not what the interests behind it want.

    Given what we know from ACTA, it's quite likely that currently-legal things involving very popular products will become illegal.

    The public will care when you start saying that stuff like iPods are illegal, as is music ripping, and that you can't brin gan iPod across the border because it'll have to be searched for illegal materials. Or your cellphone, since most can play MP3s these days.

    Or that timeshifting devices like DVRs will be illegal, too, and the number of programs marked with "no timeshifting" flags will increase. Or even worse, "no recording" flags that don't even let you do DVR things like pause live TV.

    Or maybe reading a book out loud, or selling used books (or anything else - ACTA will probably trump first sale doctrine).

    Yes, that's why ACTA is secret - common activities we do today are probably being blocked, and if the public knew that politicians around the world were going to take away their iPods and DVRs/VCRs.

    Hell, the newspapers put it best - the "Anti-iPod law - your iPod may be illegal tomorrow".

  • by SETIGuy ( 33768 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @10:48PM (#30929026) Homepage

    That's exactly why I favor a repeal of the income tax and it's replacement with a wealth based tax. People think what they make is the important thing to tax. I disagree, how much you have is what should be taxed. If all your income goes to living expenses and you are unable to build an asset base you should pay no taxes. Bill Gates, on the other hand, should pay taxes whether he has income or not. In addition, your stake in the country, how much you have to lose if it's not protected, is proportional to your wealth.

    I'm guessing you wouldn't be too keen on a system like that, would you?

    Probably not. I know 10,000 people who have said they would die for this country. I know very few who have said they would give up all of there possessions for it. I guess that shows which we value more, life or wealth.

The moon is a planet just like the Earth, only it is even deader.