Thursday, 7 June 2012

ACTA Protests: Where Will You Be This Saturday?

It's time to send a message to the powers that be: Europe says no to ACTA! I've made up some A4 (split into two equal parts) leaflets for people to print off as A5 leaflets to pass out on Saturday 9th June at the rallies and marches that will be taking place across the country. I've got all the details here.

What is ACTA?

The European Commission says,

ACTA is an international trade agreement that will help countries work together to tackle more effectively large-scale Intellectual Property Rights violations. Citizens will benefit from ACTA because it will help protect Europe's raw material – innovations and ideas (Full text of ACTA in all EU languages)

What they haven't and won't say is why democratically-minded citizens are protesting against it in every country in the EU. When they talk about objections they refuse to explain why they think we're "undemocratic" or "cyberbullying" when we say we don't want this. Detractors, however, don't use silver-tongued platitudes. We tell it like it is. Let's take it from the top:

An unaccountable committee outside of any nation's jurisdiction will be able to make changes to the treaty as and when required.

It's right at the bottom, in the last few paragraphs. This means that none of our representatives will have a say in any changes that are made, and I can guarantee that none of them will be in the interests of the public. If it ain't open and accountable, it ain't good enough.

ACTA specifies "presumptions for determining damages" that basically assume that all of the infringed goods had sold and demands compensation at a rate suggested by the accuser.

Problem 1: you're guilty until proven innocent. Problem 2: the accuser sets the rate of compensation based on the "suggested retail price." This stems from the assumption that if you hadn't copied the item (physical or digital), you would have actually bought and paid for it. This implies that having no way of being able to copy items means you would be obliged to purchase the item in question if you wanted it. I can take that apart with two words: "artificial" and "scarcity."

Typically, online, it manifests as "geographical restrictions" or "this video is not available in your country." Content providers (record companies, etc.) use the "performance window" as an excuse, but that's not valid. They come from the assumption that we're all rampant criminals that don't want to pay for what we "consume" (don't get me started. If it's still there when you've finished watching it, you haven't consumed it. You can't consume content. You can consume a chocolate bar. I ate a Kit Kat earlier, i.e. I consumed it. If I watch my (legal) copy of Ice Age on the DVD player, that won't be digesting in my tummy when I've finished watching it. There's no way to share a Kit Kat bar when I've finished with it. Well, not as a Kit Kat bar. But I can share my DVDs with my friends without diminishing the quality or quantity thereof). Actually, we do, but they don't provide us with the opportunity for legally acquiring the content legally, some of us go to illegal file-sharing websites to get copies, then go and buy the DVDs that come out later via Amazon, etc.

Content providers who want to reach those people who want to buy their products as and when they want them have only to provide them at a reasonable price, but they choose not to in order to support their current business models. With ACTA shoring up their existing government-sponsored monopolies, they don't have to change their control freak ways. That's why "Free Trade Agreements" is a misnomer. "Corporate Takeover and Consolidation" is what is actually happening.

The wording is deliberately vague so it can be interpreted as broadly as possible. People can arrested for LINKING to copyright material. They “facilitate” infringement.

ACTA, according to its proponents, won't change existing laws. That's because the people behind it have already gone to our representatives behind our backs and persuaded them to pass surveillance laws that demand our ISPs watch and report on what we do online. I'd blame the Blair government if Theresa May wasn't so enthusiastic about the Digital Economy Act.

It threatens generic medicines. The big drug companies use “evergreening” to extend their patents and that allows them to accuse cheap generics manufacturers of infringement.

I have arthritis and eczema. Like many UK residents, I require access to drugs that improve my quality of life and keep me on my feet so I can work. The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) I am prescribed are usually generics. If I can't get sulfasalazine any more because some ignoramus in the European Parliament signs ACTA (that would be Arlene McCarthy MEP, my representative. She says the EU Labour group is committed to expanding and extending copyright and hasn't responded to my last email, the sellout), I'm screwed because the government wants to restrict welfare payments. I don't need them when I'm able to work and pay my taxes. The Conservative Party has members who would love to see the NHS, our socialised healthcare service, taken apart. ACTA would ensure this so it's hardly surprising that the Greens have reported that they are the ones pushing for it to pass.

Do you or does someone you know have a chronic medical condition? Join us on Saturday. ACTA has no provisions for discriminating between poisonous fake drugs and vital generics. Meanwhile, our existing trades descriptions and health and safety laws are sufficient for dealing with dodgy fake items.

Evergreening allows a patent to be extended when small changes are made to an existing patented product. Patents on drugs ought to be illegal.

Criminalizes sharing and copying. The lack of provision for fair use means it doesn't matter how innocent your intentions are, if someone accuses you of infringement you are liable.

Copyright, trademark, and patent infringement have been conflated in ACTA even though they are treated differently under law. "Fair process" is not an internationally recognised term. By putting corporations in charge of defining what is or isn't infringement and permitting them to decide how infringement ought to be treated, we open up a can of worms, legally speaking, for the further erosion of our civil rights. They haven't defined fair use, so if you make a copy by any means of an existing item, e.g. draw a picture of a can of pop and post it on Deviant Art or something like that, you can be accused of infringement for "diluting the brand" of the pop company. This means that cases like Louis Vuitton V Hyundai would become more common and parodies would require a license. End of free speech, right there.


If this article has convinced you to attend the protests taking place where you are, here's a list of events, courtesy of Rally Against ACTA/CISPA and Digital Economy Act (Manchester) on Facebook:


For the Manchester protest, meet at the Queen Victoria Statue in Picadilly Gardens. The protest runs from 12-8pm.

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