The Internet has won the fight. SOPA and ACTA are both dead after having been eviscerated by the combined powers of the world coming together to fight for what they believe in – basic digital human rights. We can now rest easy knowing that the war has come to an end. Politicians would never think to bring them back, even under the guise of innocuous trade agreements and IP bills, right? Right?
Unfortunately, the war is not won and it's looking like the war will never end. SOPA and ACTA are both back in new forms that are even harder to kill than before. I can understand SOPA being back as it's been dead for a while, but are they really trying to push through ACTA right after it was defeated in the European Parliament? The answer is an astounding yes and the tactics that politicians are employing to regulate the Internet are pretty terrifying.
Let's start with the return of SOPA. It's important to point out now that SOPA is not returning in full just yet. I don't think that Rep. Lamar Smith would be foolish enough to propose SOPA again after such a big defeat in January. So what part of the bill is he trying to push through? The IP attaches part that expands the power of the U.S. copyright diplomats. These people, according to techdirt, go around the world forcing other countries to make their IP laws just as ruthless and unforgiving as they are in the West.
Well, that doesn't sound so bad. I mean, at least it doesn't affect the Internet in any major way. You forget that IP protection now affects the Internet in a very big way. The U.S. is pushing for some of the strongest regulations against online piracy with a six-strike rule to be implemented this month by major ISPs. By forcing foreign countries to follow these same draconian laws, it prevents us from being able to work together on a compromise that protects artists and the freedom that the Internet provides. The current plan only protects rights holders and the big wigs running the show.
the worst part about the new Intellectual Property Attache Act is that it expands the role of the IP attaches into their own agency. They are currently housed under the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Being let loose on their own with no oversight could have damaging implications in the fight for fair IP laws.
Another worrying factor is that Rep. Darrell Issa, opponent of SOPA, has signed on as a co-sponsor of the IP Attache Act. His spokesman told TechCrunch that he supports it because the bill protects American interests in foreign countries. He does, however, say that he will work to amend the bill before it goes before the committee to include protections like fair use. Whether he accomplishes that remains to be seen, but don't get too optimistic.
SOPA being forced through the legislature is bad, but it's nowhere near as bad as the secret ACTA alternative that's currently being pushed through as another treaty. We were recently made aware of CETA (Canada-EU Trade Agreement) through a leak and it contains all the rotten parts of ACTA that we all thought were killed when the European Parliament voted it down.
Before ACTA died, EU Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, promised that the treaty would be passed one way or another. His main goal is to bring the treaty before the European Court of Justice to see if the treaty infringes upon any basic human rights protected by the European Union. De Gucht doesn't want to wait for a court ruling, so he's going to use Canada to get what he wants.
The tactic, according to Michael Geist, is that the EU will pass CETA with Canada and then claim that ACTA was perfectly acceptable the whole time. I mean, Canada likes the provisions that are in CETA and so why do you hate it? It's a clever tactic and one that might work. That's the scary part as all the worst parts of ACTA are present in CETA. Even if ACTA doesn't get brought up again, the EU and Canada would be bound by a treaty that contains all that nastiness.
Fortunately, the outcry against CETA has moved the European Commission to remove some of the more inflammatory parts of the bill. The provisions in CETA that would require ISPs to remove content and disclose subscriber's personal information have been removed according to a Tweet from the European Commission's John Clancy.
Unfortunately, those are just two of the numerous provisions from ACTA that are still in CETA. The fact that the EU or Canada will not release the current text of the bill is also a bad sign. It's been a trend to hide controversial or damaging bills until they're ready to pass, but leaks like this help the public to become aware of the issues at stake. Geist suggests that the EU reveal the current draft to allow input from the citizenry. I agree, but it would be even better if countries were left to their own devices on how best to approach IP laws instead of trying to create a universal standard that only works for the top of the chain.
It seems the world and the Internet will never be the same again. In any case, the trend is that attempts to limit freedom will not stop here. Just Internet came to the attention of politicians and methods of influence now simply become more subtle. The only question is when the Internet community itself will cease to be vigilant. And then we get a blow. hopefully not in the next few years.