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ACTA Action, Part 3

ACTA Action, Part 3

There are two main problems with Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, according to the EFF's Maira Sutton. "The first is that, in process, it's been secret from the start. There has been no input from civil society members," she said. And the second? "It extends the U.S.' Digital Millennium Copyright Act to the rest of the world."

By David Vranicar
03/02/12 5:00 AM PT

ACTA Action, Part 2

With SOPA and PIPA out of the picture for the foreseeable future, ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, has becomes the world's eminent piece of online piracy legislation. Many countries, including the U.S., have signed the agreement, but questions linger.

In Part 3 of our three-part podcast about ACTA, TechNewsWorld speaks with Maira Sutton from the U.S.-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, a long-time critic of ACTA. Sutton details the foundation's grievances with agreement and offers up an alternative.


Listen to the podcast (14:33 minutes).

TechNewsWorld: We are talking to Maira Sutton, who is the international outreach coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF. EFF is a digital civil liberties organization, and they have pinpointed ACTA as a potential problem for user rights, so we wanted to talk today about some of EFF's big concerns or grievances with ACTA as it is written now. Maira, thanks a lot for taking the time to chat, I appreciate it.

Maira Sutton: Thank you for having me.

TNW: EFF has been a critic of ACTA for a while now, dating back at least into last year. I'm curious if you could kind of sum up, in general, some of the points of contention that EFF has with ACTA as it's currently written now.

Sutton: So ACTA, there are two broad problems with it. The first is that, in process, it's been secret from the start. There has been no input from civil society members. They have been extremely careful about not letting any parts of the agreement from leaking into the public so anyone could have public feedback on it, or assess whether it would infringe upon civil liberties or intellectual properties regimes that exist in different countries. So for a long time we had no idea what was in ACTA, until last year after the U.S. signed ACTA and a copy of it was released.

The second problem is that it extends the U.S.' Digital Millennium Copyright Act to the rest of the world. There are some broad misconceptions about ACTA, that it's the next SOPA or PIPA, but in reality it would barely change anything in terms of criminal and civil liabilities in the U.S. What it does is extend those liabilities to the rest of the world, so signatoree countries, they would have to start putting into place regimes that would penalize ISPs and other intermediaries, such as social networks, to enforce American standards for copyright. ...

TNW: If you object to ACTA -- and you've clearly said why your organization does, and it makes sense -- what would you propose instead? Do you think that there should be unencumbered exchange of all material, including movies and TV and music? Or do you think it's possible to strike a middle ground where these things are regulated, but not necessarily in this particular way? I mean, what's the alternative if this is not going to work?

Sutton: These laws, these intellectual property laws, do not promote creativity and do not promote business. What we are proposing is to allow this (content sharing) to occur, and to allow new business models to flourish out of what is the reality today -- that people are sharing content. The other fact is that it's really not hurting their bottom line. The recording industry has been making groundbreaking profits, the movie industry has been making more profit than ever before. Even though they claim that they are losing money, losing customers, because of content sharing, it's really not true. They should be looking at the numbers and not be so intimidated by people being able to share content and rather focus on how to adapt to the market and adapt to this new kind of economy.


David Vranicar is an American-born journalist who, after a year in China, is currently living in Europe. He has written for a variety of publications, including Deadspin, The Copenhagen Post, The Kansas City Star and The Earth Times. When not trying to find intersections between the tech industry and the world at large, he is writing a book and tweeting @davidvranicar.


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