Should You Act On ACTA? What Australians Need To Know

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement certainly sounds, just on the name of the thing alone, like not such a bad idea. But for the basic principles of personal privacy it is, and it's the latest in the recent rash of acronymic acts that the Internet's up in arms about. Here's what we in Australia need to know. ACTA — the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement if you're on first-name terms — is a trade agreement between a raft of countries, including the European Union, the USA and Australia. The agreement itself was signed back in October 2011 by eight countries, including Australia, while just recently the European Union and 22 of its member states signed up as well. ACTA's been around a long, long time — Giz first covered it back in 2009.

At its most basic level, ACTA's designed to target counterfeit goods (both digital and physical) worldwide through the establishment of a new worldwide legal framework to allow for the tracking of and prosecution of those engaged in acts of infringement under ACTA's purview. Not that some of the infringing acts aren't illegal in many ACTA countries anyway — but the matters of concern with ACTA have more to do with how it may (or will) be implemented.

There's really two parts of concern when it comes to ACTA. The first is that the negotiation process for it was held at high secrecy all the way along, with only invited parties being able to submit and be aware of exactly what was being negotiated at all. As an example, the Australian Pirate Party (which, not surprisingly, opposes ACTA) was only able to submit a formal submission in November last year — months after Australia had already signed up to ACTA itself, but a long time after the Pirate Party had already gone public in its opposition to ACTA generally.

That doesn't mean that the Pirate Party isn't still keeping up a level of opposition. As reported on Delimiter yesterday, it's still pushing for the government to reject the treaty, although it seems likely at this stage that without serious intervention, it'll pass.

There's been suggestion as to what ACTA's going to cover for some time but much of what's contentious around it surrounds what measures ISPs would be liable to enact to regulate user activity online. It's under the banner of protecting IP, but who makes that call, exactly? The only thing we do know... is that we're not allowed to know.

Last year, the Attorneys General department was claiming that it wasn't in the public interest that notes from a secret meeting between government representatives and ISPs should be released under a freedom of information act. Becauseā€¦ well, actually, I'm still a little stumped as to what relating to piracy law that the average layman shouldn't be privy to, unless somebody out there is pirating nuclear secrets, or something. Even then, if laws are going to be enacted as a result of ACTA, wouldn't it be good to know what those laws are?

ACTA has changed over time — it was proposed to be a three-strikes-and-you're-out trade agreement, and that part has all but fallen by the wayside — but critics of it point to a large quantity of rather vague wordage that could, amongst other issues, affect the development of generic medicines (because the IP is held by private firms) as well as oblige ISPs to track and deliver all sorts of end-user information over to government bodies in the name of copyright protection.

That's not just of concern to Giz readers who may be keen infringers of copyright — it'd be daft to say that there aren't some of you out there, based on the comments alone on most entertainment articles — but to anyone who wants any level of presumed privacy for their online activities. Critics of ACTA suggest that the broad scope and vague language of ACTA make it entirely possible that it could be used for wide scale digital snooping under the guise of protecting IP — but to quote from Juvenal, quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

(Look it up. It'll do you good).

More: Opinion...What Is Good Australian Government Filter Policy Anyway?

Image: Uncle Catherine



    indeed, who watches the watchmen?

    thank you, alan moore.

      The Watcher.



        Or is that the literal translation. If so, I still like "watchmen" better

    I knew that.
    Thank YOU, Sir Pratchett ;D

    bout time you guys made a repost on this. You may have covered it in 2009 but its been more important than ever to bring it to attention now.

    cant believe you're about 2 weeks late what is the problem with the agreement as it is at the moment?
    Should I be taking some sort of action?
    And what should I be doing?

      it does not directly affect aussies at the moment, but if this tyrannical form of oppression is ever passed, then the entire world will suffer the effects. The best you can do now is just be fully aware of what is happening and spread the word around so that more people will know/and oppose this draconian bill.

    Good article from Ars Technica about the myths and realities of ACTA.

      The problem with the article is that the text in ACTA can be interperated in many ways and Ars Technica (the author) is interpreting the text his/her own way.

      Unfortunatelly just like any other international agreement ACTA must be interpreted according to the Vienna Convention of 1969.

      Article 32 of the Vienna Convention states that if any part
      of a treaty is ambiguous (e.g. the entire Anti-Counterfitting Trade Agreement)it must be interpreted based on documents produced during the drafting
      and negotiation phase of the agreement.

      For ACTA these documents are (highly) classified and have never been made available to the public through official sources.

      Take a guess as to what is in the documents that determine the entire ACTA agreement. (hint probabily something not good)

        BTW that make all four of the points against ACTA completely false

    So, ummm, what should we do? Big bad scary government stuff, who's running the campaign against it (other than The Pirate Party who have zero credibility).

      Zero credibility? Says who?

    Anybody want to start getting this ball rolling? It might seem weak but an online petition to have access to ACTA will at least make the Attorney General's department review its stand on whether or not this is in the public interest.

    Better than nothing at the moment.

      If you want to get involved then join Operation Black March

    Join the Australian Pirate Party

    IF you want to stop ACTA then take part in Operation Black March.

    Operation Black March,
    Thursday, March 1st 2012 to Saturday 31st March 2012

    With the continuing campaigns for Internet-censoring litigation such as SOPA, PIPA, ACtA and PPt and the closure of sites such as Megaupload under allegations of "piracy" and 'conspiracy' the time has come to take a stand against music, film and media companies' lobbyists.

    The only way is to hit them where it truly hurts.
    Their profit margins.

    March 2012 is the end of the 1st quarter in economic reports worldwide.

    Do not buy a single record. Do not download a single song, legally or illegally. Do not go to see a single film in cinemas, or download a copy, Do not buy a DVD in stores. Do not buy a videogame. Do not buy a single or magazine.

    Wait 4 weeks to buy them in April: see the film later, etc. Holding out for just 4 weeks, maximum, will leave a gaping hole in media and entertainment companies' profits for the 1st quarter, an economic hit which will in turn be observed by governments worldwide as stores and shares will blip form a large enough loss of incomes
    This action can give a statement of intent:

    "We Will Not Tolerate The Media Industries' Lobbying For Legislation Which Will Censor The Internet."

    This is something i found online about going against this unfair censorship i copied it word from word since i couldnt put the picture in

    please help me and support with me otherwise soon enough
    'The Internet Will Not Be The Internet Itself'

    btw if you want to help even more then join Anonymous (they are legends)

    Spread Operation Black March
    If more people know about the operation, spread the word and get involved then the losses of the corperations will be greater so less the corperations will support ACTA and internet censorship. The supporters will also have less money to support ACTA with.

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