Is ACTA redefining the rule of law as we know it?

The whole world is going bananas over this whole ACTA thing, because SOPA and PIPA were not quite enough excitement for the tiny anarchist that lives in us all. Pandering to the tiny anarchist in us seems to have become a bit of a trend both on the local and the global front with the 25 to 40 somethings. Anything trendy makes my skin crawl. I refuse to do the “cool” thing and jump on the anti-government bandwagon, not unless there really is good reason to. More often than not, there isn’t.
So I spent the whole morning engulfed in pro and anti ACTA crap trying to make sense of it instead of shooting my mouth off at the first whiff of government doing what we pay it to do, ie govern.
In principle, the premise behind the proposed law is sound. I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you guys, but the fact that copyright infringement has become integrated within our lifestyles doesn’t make it legal or even right. We are so used to finding what we want on the ‘net and using it the way we want to with merry disregard for the wishes of its rightful owner that the majority conveniently choose to disregard that in essence what we are doing is ripping someone off.
And by “someone” I don’t mean some rich and faceless corporation that won’t feel the pinch. I mean someone like you and me, for whom the smallest fees, rates and royalties can make or break our livelihood.
So yeah, I see nothing wrong with a bit of enforcement of intellectual copyright laws. This comes with one massive BUT. The specific legislation proposed scares the crap out of me on various fronts, all of which are related to the basic principles of rule of law that government holds so dear. If I understood the proposals correctly – and if I didn’t I’ll be happy for you to point it out so we can put all this ACTA-panic to rest, this is what will happen if the law goes through:

In this case, the usual presumption of innocence doesn’t apply. If X believes that Y is ripping him off under ACTA, Y is immediately assumed to be guilty. It is up to Y to prove this isn’t the case. The only other cases when the law does not presume innocence is in cases of drug trafficking and pimping. I feel it’s pushing it a bit to equate the odd spot of movie downloading to the distribution of kilos of the white stuff.

Point number two that has me raising my eye-brows is the way that in the above scenario, the ISP has been endowed with powers of judge, jury and executioner. If my internet provider sees that I am using bit-torrent, for instance, my connection will be cut off unceremoniously with the full blessing of the law. No need for lengthy legal procedures or anything silly like that. Wham, bam, you are legally screwed ma’am. Doesn’t this go against every single principle of law society treasures?

My last worry is the most serious. ACTA provides one generic concept of what constitutes intellectual property theft. Everyone, no matter how small/big the infringement, faces serious retribution. In theory, sharing a YouTube link via email (will YouTube still exist?) will lead to exactly the same serious repercussions as if I were to download a movie illegally, make copies and set up a monti stand. This is taking law enforcement to a ridiculous level.

To conclude, yes. The fuss is justified. Which is why I’ll be joining the anti-ACTA protests. Protection of our intellectual property rights: good. Going medieval on our butts is not, particularly when there are other, more serious crimes that need urgent attention. See, what I did there? Wonder if Tarantino would want to cut off my Internet connection if I had filched that quote in a post-ACTA world?

Thoughts, anyone?



  1. Jean Gove' says:

    “I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you guys, but the fact that copyright infringement has become integrated within our lifestyles doesn’t make it legal or even right.”

    Regardless of how the law defines copyright, does it make sense to anyone that sharing a dvd or a lending book results in a copyright infringement? Isn’t it evident that it is ultimately a manipulation of the ideas behind having a copyright? It would seem obvious that copyright exists in order to protect the work of an artist, and would be challenged only if someone changes or edits that work, or claims it, or parts of it, to have been her own.

    But file-sharing does none of this. A file is shared without making any changes to the original, and without claiming authorship of the file in question. It IS the same as lending a book or a dvd to a friend.

    The only obvious difference is that file-sharing over the internet is more like lending a dvd to a few million friends, which gets the profiteers thinking that if file-sharing is removed, they would rake in a few more millions.

    Also, I’m sorry, the independent industry has embraced and thrived off the file-sharing culture in ways that the mainstream industry would find mind-baffling. Before file-sharing, there was simply no access to many independent artists. Many more people have become aware of independent artists than before, and as a result they get more sales (from downloaders who would support them after they heard them via torrent downloads or youtube), and more people at their gigs.

    It’s the multi-million producing companies (barely the mainstream artists themselves) like the MPAA who have been raising the ruckus about every new advance in media technology. Thirty years ago they were trying to ban the VCR – now it’s the internet, and they have found a sympathetic ear in an increasingly isolated political class that has seen the power of free speech of the internet, how it can break the chains they hold on the media, both in events in the Middle East and in the Occupy Movement in the US.

  2. The Finger says:

    ACTA was signed in Greece two days ago, and no media or publications in Greece even talked about it. They put it under the table, they signed it, before anyone got to say anything about it. It seems to me that they didn’t pass SOPA or PIPA, to show up unexpectedly and say “Hello, we just signed ACTA” like it happened in Greece. But this is a standard procedure in Greece, regarding how they vote legislation. They sign it and then announce it..

  3. Jean Gove' says:
  4. markbiwwa says:

    The fact that ACTA would require ISPs to act as policemen is neither fair on them, nor on us.


  1. […] Everyone was disappointed when the owner of the video mysteriously took offence that I had linked to his channel and promptly switched the video to private. Incidentally, I suppose that’s a taster of what is likely to happen should ACTA come to pass – more about that here. […]