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January 25, 2012

ACTA has same dangers as PIPA and SOPA

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Written by: Leonardo Castaneda

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Samantha Barlin, Production Designer

Samantha Barlin, Production Designer

If you thought the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act were scary, imagine this: There is an international treaty with the same goals and civil rights infringements as its American cousins, crafted in secrecy outside any existing trade organization with the help of industry giants such as the Motion Picture Association of America.

The treaty’s goal is to ban counterfeit goods and online piracy by requiring Internet Protocol servers and individual websites to monitor and prosecute suspected copyright infringements. But the goal comes packaged with some collateral damage: infringements on individual’s civil rights and the creation of a system responsible for widespread, international online censorship.

This nightmare treaty is called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. It has most of the same goals, supporters and privacy abuses of SOPA and PIPA. What it didn’t have was the kind of public outcry led by websites such as Reddit and Wikipedia when it was signed by the U.S. The treaty now awaits ratification by the European Union before it goes into full force.

ACTA’s scope is far wider than SOPA or PIPA. It aims to stop the “proliferation of counterfeit and pirated goods, as well as of services that share infringing material.” This includes knockoff Louis Vuitton purses and cheap counterfeit medicine in developing nations. It also means any website or program that could potentially be used to infringe copyrighted material, from sites with links for music downloads to music-burning software, would be automatically outlawed.

The dangers of governmental control of the Internet under the auspices of copyright protection are difficult to overstate. The Internet is a breeding ground for innovation, where crowd sourcing can turn a beta program full of bugs into the hottest new piece of software. But it has now also become a forum for the free exchange of ideas and information across international and cultural boundaries. It is this freedom from government control that has given the Internet so much power.

When individuals are free to use the Internet freely, as they did in Tunisia, they can use it to oust deeply entrenched dictators. When a government is able to stop the free flow of information and spy on the online activity of its citizens, it can kill democracy the way Iran did during the failed Green Revolution in 2009. From Occupy Wall Street in the U.S. to the Indignados in Spain, the Internet has allowed pro-democracy protesters to exchange ideas, tools and advice.

Online freedom has been widely acknowledged as vital for democracy. When Egypt tried to shut off the Internet to quell protests against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak, world leaders, led by President Barack Obama, stood in outrage. Now these same leaders, once more led by Obama, are working to quietly build the infrastructure to control the Internet.

Of course, no one says ACTA’s goal is to censor the Internet. The stated goal of the treaty is to protect the copyrights of business and artists. The scenario supporters of ACTA – and SOPA and PIPA – point to is that a website such as The Pirate Bay, built for the express purpose of allowing people to illegally download copyrighted music, movies and software, would be shut down. The nightmare scenario opponents of ACTA fear is an individual posting a link to or citing a news article critical of the government could be shut down for not having explicit permission to use that content.

The question is whether the damage being done to the industries ACTA aims to protect is grave enough to warrant stepping on the edge of the slippery slope of Internet censorship. Organizations such as the MPAA and the Recording Industry Association of America argue it is. Both the MPAA and the RIAA argue online piracy is killing creativity and destroying entertainment industries that employ thousands of people.

However, comparing some quick industry statistics from 2000 — the year Napster was shut down — to 2010, proves these claims are patently wrong. In 2000, 506 movies were released with a total worldwide gross of more than $7.7 billion. In 2010, 883 movies were released with a total gross of more than $10.2 billion. Clearly the birth of file-sharing programs like BitTorrent has done little to stymie the creativity of filmmakers.

We cannot risk allowing the governments of not just the U.S., but also the 27 members of the European Union, Japan and Mexico, among others, to create a system for online censorship to stop a nonexistent threat to intellectual property.

The only way to prevent it is with the kind of backlash and social outcry that put a stop to SOPA and PIPA in Congress. This outcry proved once more the Internet can be an unparalleled tool for democracy and government accountability. Now is the time to use it once more to ensure the government won’t take it away the day we need it most.

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About the Author

Leonardo Castaneda
Leonardo is a senior double majoring in journalism and economics. He is the current Editor in Chief of The Aztec, 2012-13 Opinion editor and an Opinion columnist from 2010-12.



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  1. Tom Graziano

    I can understand getting rid of pirating websites but this act would become something evil.

  2. Censored due to Government

    Anyone want to start picking out good places to live in cardboard boxes?

    Seems like the government is not helping poverty at all for the poor. We the people are helping out feeding them and caring for them. The government is not giving the poor anything at all.

    The government is just making anonymous more pissed off. First anonymous angry about megauploads taken down then who knows what damage he can do. We all saw the damage to sony and microsoft. Who knows what anonymous next target is. It is pretty sad we may have to praise anonymous for helping us if this comes to illegal actions like hacking into the government files.

    It is sad we are losing amendments and we are fighting back anyway to stop these pointless bills that will hurt everyone.

  3. Jake M.

    If they really wanted to work on piracy, they should suck it up and take a few years to gather a group of people who have actually had success on the Internet and fix this old and outdated copyright law. All of these weak and unattached addendums are going to be filled with giant loopholes that are exploitable by both the public and the corporations

  4. Tanner Chrisler

    No one Government is to blame for this. These measures were bought and paid for by massive corporations that want to have a more focused control over the market. Don’t Rage against Obama and his Administration, while I am disappointing that he’s done nothing to stop this, he isn’t the problem. These greedy Corporate jack-asses own almost everything, and the internet is the last bastion of true freedom that is independent of these would be tyrants. We must fight to defend what freedoms we can secure. We’ve proven that even the mighty media tyrants are not invincible, and that scares them, so they are trying to strike us again. Tell your friends, relatives, and anyone who will listen. This must be stopped, and if we band together it will be stopped!

    • Sam C.

      The fact that we should not blame Obama and his Administration would be true, and would have been true for SOPA/PIPA, but it is unfortunately not true for ACTA. Obama shows full support for ACTA, even more so than SOPA/PIPA

  5. Valorfrost

    really?! all those votes for nothing?! WOW, we americans must be REALLY EFFED up if we WANT THIS, this makes us COMMUNIST FOR GOD’S SAKE!

  6. Scott Deagan

    I have two words; “Black March”.

    Boycott the media cartel in March 2012:

    - Don’t buy any music.
    - Don’t rent or buy any DVDs.
    - Refrain from going to the cinema.

  7. Anthony D


    it’s not just targeting counterfeit phamaceuticals. It goes after generic drug manufacturers. Generic is not fake.
    And these supposedly counterfeit video/recordings are not fakes. They are 1:1 digital rips from an original source. Countefeit would mean that a film/song would have to be re-made not by the original creator but an impostor. Hollywood does remakes…wait that means…they are impostors. You option a movie based off a book, that’s a counterfeit because it’s not a 1:1 exact copy of the source.

    Anonymous can only do so much, it’s up to the other percentage of the world population that do not vote to make a decision.

  8. IDK

    I DONT APROVE THIS CRAP , gtfo all supporters of acta

  9. mahlik

    this is plain bullshit

    lets give the already billionaire companys with massive success even more money and let poor people beg on the street with absolutley nothing

    how about the people dieing in poor third world countrys.

    no lets just keep everyone busy with our bullshit while we continue to bath in our greed and riches

  10. B Radical

    This is just the start.Fascism is on its way.Democracy is an illusion that allows us to think we have a voice while keeping the status quo.The IMF,World Bank,The Federal reserve and others backed by the Rothchilds,Rockerfeller family,Du Pont family,Vanderbilts,Bilderburg Group and other elitists are your true leaders,indebting nations thus populations that have no chance of ever paying their way out of debt ensuring absolute control.Countries everywhere are close to bankruptcy.Capitalism is dying Fascism is the new world order Governments including our own are just vehicles to keep them in control.Internet freedom is dissolving,repressing our freedom of speech through acts like SOPA PIPA ACTA and others under the guise of stopping piracy.These acts are a vehicle to enact more oppressive laws which will give them eventual control of all media and thus their own propaganda.Watch out for their Divide and Conquer Strategy and false flags.Exactly how the Nazis took control pre WWII. Watch Zeitgeist the movie and youll understand where this is headed.Take the red pill and fight back.

  11. PAY PAY(:

    Rlly if they shut my facebook down THERE WILL BE A BIG PROBLEM! Yup so it better not! thats whats up

  12. Not another one...

    Wow they seriously dont give up, with laws like this in place the internet would virtually shut down as everyone would be too worried about being arrested or sued to post anything at all. “Whats that, you posted a picture you took with your own camera but it had our building in the shot, we’re going to sue you.” Lets face it people, file sharing is absolutely NO different than one person buying a dvd and inviting their friends over to watch it with them. So guess whats next, you buy a movie and you have to watch it in a closet alone so no one else can see it at the same time or else you get sued.

    Last time i checked these actors and singers are some of the richest people on the planet, how the hell can anyone be saying that they are being hurt by file sharing? What, will they have to wait another couple days to be able to afford that yacht?

    And what of tv shows, movies or anime that were made by people who arent around anymore? Say an anime show was made and was copyright but the company that made it went out of business, or what about older movies and anime that are no longer sold in stores? “Oh no they are still under copyright, doesnt matter if there is no other way to get them, you cant share them.”

    Besides the fact that the people i know who do occasionally download a movie wouldnt be buying that movie anyway so they arent going to be making any money off of those people. All it would be doing is wasting tax payers money to punish people.

    And thats not saying anything about the privacy issues either, what is the point of buying that anti spyware program when the government is doing it anyway? Also i should note that having people monitoring what your online activity is a bad idea, i worked for a cell phone company before and i heard some stories of how a few people had taken the credit card info of some customers that called in and used that. If ISPs are allowed and required to monitor our activity, who is to say that the people doing the monitoring are honest?

  13. Mshadows567

    What happened to the freedom of speech. Sopa, Acta, and Pipa are basically going against this. we need to stop this from happening!!!!!

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