The Truth About ACTA and the Inaccurate Protest Arguments

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA as many of us know it, is highly debated and protested against these days, but few know that a lot of the anti-ACTA arguments are highly inaccurate.

Since the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was abandoned, Internet users from all over the world turned their attention to the latest controversial agreement that was already signed by a large number of countries worldwide, including European Union member states.

Ars Technica reveals the most common inaccurate arguments used by the highly determined protestors. As they inform us, few people know that most of the outrageous motives used by anti-ACTA protestors are actually part of some older drafts that are no longer present in the final form of the agreement.

One of the most common inaccurate claims is that ACTA will allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to monitor all our internet traffic.

Many readers will probably argue that this is nothing new, many ISPs already monitoring much of our traffic, but the fact of the matter is that in reality ACTA will not empower them more to follow such practices.

Some earlier variants did propose measures similar to the French “three strike” law, which would require traffic monitoring, but the final version only requires participating nations to “promote cooperative efforts within the business community to effectively address trademark and copyright or related rights infringement while preserving legitimate competition and, consistent with that Party's law, preserving fundamental principles such as freedom of expression, fair process, and privacy.”

States could choose to monitor all the traffic of Internet users, such as in France, but they could implement other measures that would not be so draconic, especially considering the fact that they have to preserve the fundamental principles.

Another exaggerated argument is that generic drugs and seeds could be seized in the name of patents while they’re being transported from one country to the other, thus endangering the lives of ill people and leaving thousands without food.

This is partly true, but most protestors say that ACTA will actually completely ban generic drugs and seeds, which is highly untrue.

ACTA will not totally ban generic drugs and seeds, but it does increase “the risks and consequences of wrongful searches, seizures, lawsuits and other enforcement actions against legitimate suppliers of generic medicines.”

This means that generic drug suppliers will have to modify the appearance of their products so they can’t be confused with corresponding name-brand drugs.

The third argument is that ACTA is very similar to SOPA and PIPA when it comes to blacklisting sites from DNS, search engines, payment methods and ad networks, but in reality, the agreement doesn’t contain these proposals.

“ACTA's Internet provisions are plainly not as bad as those contemplated by SOPA. Over the course of several years of public protest and pressure, the Internet provisions were gradually watered down with the removal of three strikes and you're out language,” said Michael Geist, a Canadian copyright scholar and ACTA critic.

“Other controversial provisions on statutory damages and anti-camcording rules were made optional rather than mandatory.”

Finally, one erroneous argument claims that ISPs are forced to constantly check for copyright infringing materials on their servers and even parts of sentences could be protected and “made prescript by copyright,” but in reality, there is nothing in ACTA to say that user-generated materials need to be monitored for infringing material.

Unfortunately, after the 22 countries signed the agreement in Tokyo last week, a lot of state representatives proved that they had no idea what so ever what ACTA was all about. A perfect example is Romania, where politicians haven’t got the slightest clue about the controversial agreement, most of them voting for it just to vote differently than the ruling party.

Protests aren’t a bad thing. They’re a good way of showing world leaders that they can’t take decisions without consulting the masses. They’re also a good way of making sure that decisions can’t be made only to favor certain companies with certain interests, but it’s just as important to know precisely what we protest against.

The bottom line is that ACTA is certainly a bad thing, an agreement secretly made by wealthy countries with the purpose of watching out for their personal interests.

It has many downsides for the everyday Internet users and for the citizens of certain countries, but let’s not make people panic without legitimate reasons, because then it would be like sending spam messages such as the ones that say Facebook is about to start charging members.

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