Secret copyright treaty is the most annoying thing you'll read all year


A great African American civil rights activist one said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” That’s how I feel about copyright these days. You’ve got these entrenched business interests who seemingly have their favorite congressmen on speed-dial, and then you have people who, God forbid, would like to see these businesses embrace new, practical business models that don’t automatically assume their customers are potential criminals. But this! This latest development has me thinking, “You know what? Just shoot me. Go ahead. I don’t have to pay my student loans any more (take that, Citibank!), and I won’t have to worry about being treated like a criminal by the likes of whatever stupid entertainment company is in Congress’ good graces this week. Win-win.”

What the heck am I whinging about? It’s the leaked notes of an international copyright treaty, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, that’s in the process of being negotiated in Seoul. Everything’s very hush-hush, of course, and you don’t hear a damn thing about it on TV, no. No, that’s filled with crackpots on the left and right claiming that health care will fix everyone’s problems automatically or destroy the country as soon as it’s signed into law. As if things this complicated could be debated in 30-second segments.

Anyhow, the bullet points of the treaty, by way of Boing Boing:

• That ISPs have to proactively police copyright on user-contributed material. This means that it will be impossible to run a service like Flickr or YouTube or Blogger, since hiring enough lawyers to ensure that the mountain of material uploaded every second isn’t infringing will exceed any hope of profitability.

• That ISPs have to cut off the Internet access of accused copyright infringers or face liability. This means that your entire family could be denied to the internet — and hence to civic participation, health information, education, communications, and their means of earning a living — if one member is accused of copyright infringement, without access to a trial or counsel.

• That the whole world must adopt US-style “notice-and-takedown” rules that require ISPs to remove any material that is accused — again, without evidence or trial — of infringing copyright. This has proved a disaster in the US and other countries, where it provides an easy means of censoring material, just by accusing it of infringing copyright.

• Mandatory prohibitions on breaking DRM, even if doing so for a lawful purpose (e.g., to make a work available to disabled people; for archival preservation; because you own the copyrighted work that is locked up with DRM)

Awesome. My favorite part is that treaty signatories have to abide by U.S.-style copyright takedown convention. Don’t worry, Planet Earth, we’ve got your best interests in mind.

The heck we do!

Whatever, I’m tired of this he-said, she-said garbage, vis-à-vis copyright, as should be clear by the tone of the post.