By John Walker on January 25th, 2012 at 2:03 pm.
Post SOPA might be slightly wishful thinking, because the industries that paid for the bill are not going to back down any time soon. Perhaps they’ve realised they’re at least going to need to be slightly more subtle about wanting control of the internet. (Although as long as Chris Dodd is speaking for the MPAA, subtlety doesn’t look like it’s going to be an option.) They will be back. But there are others about, trying similar. So what’s there to worry about?
If SOPA offered us a chance to see some real democracy taking place, as millions of Americans contacted their politicians to make their voices heard, then the situation in Ireland is quite different. Astonishingly, a bill similar to SOPA is going to be passed there without any democratic process at all. Seán Sherlock, the Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, has innovated the idea to pass into law similar censorious abilities without any debate or vote in Ireland’s parliament, the Oireachtas.
An avoidance of scrutiny called a “ministerial order” is being used to put the bill into law without the pesky need to let anyone have a say about it first. It will allow the entertainment industries the right to force Irish ISPs to block sites of their choosing, if they allege they contain copyrighted material. So, yes, like SOPA it means any site that has user interaction or content becomes completely untenable. Post a link to a song download on Facebook, and Facebook should be banned by the law. RPS won’t be able to stay up in Ireland, as a single errant comment will see us gone before we’ve been given a chance to delete it. It does at least require a court order to enforce, but remains a monumentally stupid piece of legislation.
For details on whom you can contact if you live in Ireland, and would like to continue to have access to a free internet, head to the petition site and click on “What You Can Do”.
ACTA is a more confusing affair. Again, lobbied for by the entertainment industry around the world, it’s an agreement in the works by a number of countries around the world, in an attempt to unify copyright and IP laws, and create a treaty designed to see copyrights being further protected. And of course, in its original form, was a terrifying mess.
ACTA is changing, being redrafted, and as clearly unnecessary as any bill may be, it’s being watered down. But the secrecy and anti-democratic nature of its existence is very worrying. Before Christmas Anonymous created this video to highlight the dangers they saw at that point:
The bill remains massively problematic. That it was created behind closed doors by unelected officials, having been requested by the entertainment industry, just about nothing about it sits right. Especially since it has absolutely nothing to do with counterfeiting, which is something quite separate from unauthorised duplication, and the deliberate conflation of the two is one of the repeated tricks of these lobbiests. It was signed by the US in 2011, and Poland is planning to sign it next week. And as the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, the Council of the European Union decided to sign it during a meeting about agriculture and fisheries.
It is of course designed to protect businesses that were built around the impossibility of that which is now possible (to quote myself), and thus focuses on a fear of the internet’s ability to let people share the ethereal. And the focus point at the moment is on the European Parliament, due to yay or nay the agreement this year.
The good news is that it no longer includes the “three strikes” rule, which would have seen ISPs required to cut people off if they were “caught” infringing the rules three times. But what remains is a treaty – one that countries will sign but not necessarily enforce – is once again ambiguous wording and far too wide reaching abilities to infringe of free use of the internet. Also, as the EFF observes, it also sets a terrifying precedent for international legislation being decided in secret, behind closed doors, and then imposed on multiple countries at once without any say from their peoples. Because, well, that’s the sort of thing nutjob conspiracy theorists claim happens. And here it’s happening. Fortunately some countries, like Brazil and Holland, have balked at the secrecy, and there’s still time for people to contact MEPs to request they raise the issue in the European Parliament.
Very similar to ACTA, the TPP is also being drafted behind closed doors without any democratic consultation. This one is between Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, and it’s looking even more restrictive than ACTA, according to the EFF. It seems to be a way to get the worst of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act overseas. However, this one is still in early days, so there’s time to kick up a fuss before anyone signs it.
If you’re in the States, you might also care about this astonishing planned invasion of everyone’s privacy.