Those of you who use the internet a fair bit probably remember last Wednesday’s anti-SOPA protest, during which numerous websites “blacked out” or posted specially designed images to raise awareness of the US “stop online piracy act”. The MPAA and others in the States are promoting legislation which is deliberately vague and open ended and will carry enormous penalties against people accused of “pirating” content. The law would have allowed for websites to be taken offline without notice, oversight or appeal if the MPAA alleges that they link to sites that may link to “pirating” and any genuinely shared content would be lost entirely or assumed by christ knows who, as has happened in the MegaUpload case. (Oh look there’s already a law against theft!) As with Australia’s notorious “Clean Feed” which was sneakily implemented by Telstra and Optus despite being twice rejected by the voters, there is no public accountability and no transparency with the application or reviews. (You’ll notice there’s a few links to TechDirt in this post, that’s because their entire site is devoted to discussion about copyright and internet law and its contributors are experts.)
Other issues with these so called “anti-piracy” laws are their effect on artists, creativity and innovation, and future collaboration. As usual, lazy, stupid politicians and greedy corporate scumbags are using code words to try and trick people into supporting a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The laws don’t guarantee that artists get fairly paid, all they do is turn the already contentious issue of copyright and intellectual property into a free fraud zone in which plutocrats increase their strangle-hold on human creativity even at the expense of profit. (Because “piracy” often works as advertising and those who download content are also the largest buyers of music and movies.) Remember that “You wouldn’t steal a car” ad that runs at the start of so many DVD movies? You know the music? It was used by the company without the permission or knowledge of the artist and when he tried to get paid for it, the executive attempted to blackmail him!
After the January 18 protest enough US congress critters were influenced that the SOPA law was shelved. It’s currently suspended. That certainly doesn’t mean it has been defeated, just that they’ll attempt to slip it through when everyone’s… “Oooh look over there, shiny!” Update: In fact, the idiot who sponsored SOPA may already have his trojan horse in the wings. Naturally it mentions child pornography because that dead horse hasn’t been beaten to an unrecognisable pulp quite yet. (Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that the same politicians and media jerks who repeat this “save the children” white wash are too frequently the same scumbags who cut funding for education, health care, housing, welfare, children’s services, early intervention and shelters for those escaping domestic violence. That would merely be emphasising a greater depth of hypocrisy involved in the development of the bills.)
But if you think SOPA is bad, wait till you meet the international treaty version: ACTA. It’s essentially SOPA on steroids, designed to not only entrench an outdated ownership model and extend the hold of a few greedy old hogs on human innovation, but to force the will of multinational companies overtly on citizens world wide. And it’s ongoing:
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, there are “other plurilateral agreements, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which contains a chapter on IP enforcement that would have state signatories adopt even more restrictive copyright measures than ACTA. Similarly, negotiations over TPP are also held in secret and with little oversight by the public or civil society. These initiatives, negotiated without participation from civil society or the public, are an affront to a democratic world order. EFF will remain vigilant against these international initiatives that threaten to choke off creativity, innovation, and free speech, and will stand with EDRi, FFII, La Quadrature du Net and our other EU fellow traveller organizations in their campaign to defeat ACTA in the European Parliament in January.”
Although ACTA has already been signed by a number of nations, including, of course, the spineless Australian excuse for a government, it’s origins were so shady that it took Wikileaks to uncover the background to it.
La Quadrature du Net obtained exclusive access to the WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables regarding the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Although they only give a partial account of the history of this secretly-negotiated agreement, these cables shed an interesting light on the coming into being of ACTA. They show the prime role of the US in the advent of this extremist imposition of violent sanctions against citizens and their fundamental rights. The cables expose the stakes and debates surrounding the participation of developing countries, as well as the evolution of the position of European Union during the negotiations.
It’s not going to stop
advertising piracy any more than Lamar Smith’s bullshit excuse for a law will stop paedophilia. It simply gives shady corporate interests more power to exert their will over an increasingly abused populace. And what is our sycophancy government doing about this? Having a good hard look at the terms of the treaty? Insisting on a democratic process? Making its details available to the public so we can decide whether we want to be signatories? Evaluating whether the Australian voters see any merit in the treaty? Of course not. That pack of snivelling weasels are doing the deals behind closed doors.
ACTA is an international agreement that could have an impact for the decades to come on the global knowledge economy, it has absolutely no democratic legitimacy. Indeed, it was drafted by a small group of unelected officials in charge of promoting the interests of rights holders in their respective countries — not legitimate representatives.
And just who are these thugs? Largely the same mob who were responsible for SOPA. And if it isn’t enough that plutocrats are ignoring democracy flat out, they’re bribing and threatening politicians who dare resist. Playing “Money-for-laws politics”.
Needless to say there has been a quick response from netizens and citizens who are fed up with corporate toe-cutters. Public Knowledge made a statement including:
“Public Knowledge welcomes constructive dialog with people from all affected sectors about issues surrounding copyright, the state of the movie industry and related concerns. Cybersecurity experts, Internet engineers, venture capitalists, artists, entrepreneurs, human rights advocates, law professors, consumers and public-interest organizations, among others should be included. They were shut out of the process for these bills.
“We suggest that in the meantime, if the MPAA is truly concerned about the jobs of truck drivers and others in the industry, then it can bring its overseas filming back to the U.S. and create more jobs. It could stop holding states hostage for millions of dollars in subsidies that strained state budgets can’t afford while pushing special-interest bills through state legislatures. While that happens, discussions could take place.”
Grass roots campaigners are organising the Black March Boycott, a month long boycott of the
brown shirts companies involved, including Sony, Disney, Fox, Paramount and Warner Bros. It’s easy. Save some money. Find some better alternatives. Indy movies online.
In Poland internet users decided to fight fire with fire, and opted straight for hacktivism. “Dear Polish government, we will continue to disrupt and interfere with your government official websites until the 26th. Do not pass ACTA” It only took two days of the Polish Parliamentary web site being offline for them to see the light.
Although Australia’s useless shitbags have already signed the Treaty, a little pressure wouldn’t go astray. It’s not like the Australian government has never changed a decision or reneged on a promise. I’d like to propose two options: Firstly email or phone contact with your local
Secondly, print a picture of Guy Fawkes on a piece of card and mail that sucker to Parliament House. Address it to either the Prime Minister or any of your reps or senators with a brief note on the back stating that you feel Australia ought to remain a democracy and this means listening to the citizens, not hiding things from them.
Print it on card so it can be posted without an envelope. If you print four on an A4 page, you have four postcards. On the back, print the address of your reptile on the right hand half, as it would appear on a postcard.
Prime Minister Gillard
On the left, something like “Dear Prime Minister Gillard, your government deliberately violated democratic process in signing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. You were elected to represent the citizens of Australia not the interests of multinational corporations. Please withdraw Australia’s signature to that agreement immediately.”
Put a stamp on that puppy and bung it in the post box. A real post box. You remember what they look like? 😉 The benefit is that everyone who sees or handles it on its way gets to see the image and the statement. While there’s a lot of value in emails and phone calls to politicians, mainly because most people can’t be bothered, in Australia people are so terrorised into apathy that one actual letter is considered to represent the views of hundreds, if not a thousand other people. So get on it! Let the bastards know we’re not going to keep bending over for this kind of abuse. And if you’re a member of a Union, ask your Union rep what they think of gub ignoring democracy like this.