The importance of ACTA

Everyone wants to know what’s in ACTA. It’s one of the most secret documents in the world, yet its impact will be felt by billions of people who don’t even know it exists. There have been a few leaks so far, but nothing complete. What is out there is enough to make many worry.

Right now, there is a full, non-definitive version online at La Quadrature du Net, a French association fighting for net neutrality, is hosting a PDF of it.

If this latest leak is to be believed, everyone is going to need two of everything. Any time you want to travel internationally, you’re going to have to take your “spare” equipment that is void of anything that could remotely be construed as illegal. While knowledge of software, such as truecrypt, is useful, what happens when you return home and the customs and immigration officers want to keep your devices? If your electronic equipment is vital for day to day life, can you really wait several hours to several months to have your equipment returned to you?

If you have mp3s on your laptop, mp3 player, cell phone, etc., you’ll need to prove they are legitimate. If you burn your own mp3s, there is little you can do to prove you own the CDs when you’re at a boarder crossing.

The same holds true of movies. If you rip a movie or two for your long flight, how can you prove to airport security that the DVDs are back at home and you are practicing fair use?
While people should already practicing this, there are still far too many people who believe that either it would never happen to them or that the government would never question what’s on their electronic devices to begin with.

Because it is impossible to know all the rules and laws of every country, it’s best to just not put yourself at a disadvantage when traveling.

The other problem with ACTA lies in how it plans to deal with issues of net neutrality and undesirable actions online. Sending any copyrighted material across a network would be a violation of the ACTA trade agreement.

The first victims of ACTA would be file sharing. Bittorrent would be crushed. Major websites, such as rapidshare, megaupload, etc., would be next. Even if your website or forum does no sharing and is discussion only, you may not be safe.

Slyck.com recently received letters demanding that their content be removed on the grounds of defamation. While the charges are unfounded, the passing of ACTA would make it more difficult to refuse the demands.

ACTA is also a step towards tracking every bit of data on the internet. With that comes the granting of unprecedented prosecutorial powers. Germany, Japan, Australia, and the United States will allow its citizens to be prosecuted in the other country for cases such as copyright infringement and counterfeiting.

Since many people practice the pirating policy of “try it before you buy it,” movies, music, and television programs will see a drop in sales. Many people do not want to purchase items unseen and unheard. Producers of such media, as well as politicians, believe that individuals will simply pay the price to avoid the risk of prosecution. What they fail to realize is the very real fact of a major backlash. Consumers use pirating to weed out the garbage from the gold. The same process has always occurred, just at a slower pace and media producers made a few extra dollars before your friends and/or family members let you know something wasn’t worth the money.

In the 21st century, media producers practice the policy of squeezing every last cent out of the consumer during the first week of release. This is because the internet will notify everyone, everywhere, about how good the product is.

A larger problem of ACTA concerns a person’s IP address. Many people have no clue how to lock down a router. If your router is broadcasting your signal to everyone, someone is going to jump on that signal and use it. They won’t be using it just to check email. Try convincing a jury of that.
Non-technical people will be lost and innocently accused of something they didn’t know existed or don’t even understand. After enough confusion, people will give up trying to figure out what the law actually says.

Many people have not heard of ACTA unless they visit websites such as reddit, arstechnica, eff, and/or boing boing. This is because most countries are deliberately keeping this information secret. If the general public knew that even downloading a single data packet could put you afoul of the law, there would be protests.

ACTA aims to control the internet, what you read, and what you see online. By passing an international treaty, governments can bypass the regular legislative processes in their respective countries because, if there was open discussion, it is highly likely that such laws would never be agreed upon.

ACTA is scary, unnerving, and worthy of much more media attention than it is getting. It will completely overhaul the internet as we know it today. Data tracking will become more prevalent, with your ISP readily handing over details of your activities online to the government. This sort of thinking used to be left to the realm of conspiracy theories, but it is no longer an idea spoken of in hushed tones. It is real and it is happening now. If we don’t act to stop it, we will see active censorship of the internet in the next few years.

Author: Michael Jansen
When it comes to cyber-security & privacy protection, no one is better than our chief editor Michael Jansen. Michael started tinkering with computer networks in the early ’90s with led him to study computer science and network engineering at the university. He was always a privacy protection advocate and decided to start this project with his like-minded friends.