When the first SOPA and then PIPA were on the senate voting block earlier this year, the internet self-censored itself to make an important statement. Highly trafficked sites like Wikipedia, Reddit, WordPress.org, MoveOn.org, Imgur, and others went completely black for all, while others like Google and Mozilla dedicated room on their homepages to voice their opposition to the bills.
For those with shorter memories, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) were two pieces of legislation designed to curb copyright infringement. While most industry leaders including the heads of many of the sites mounting the protest agree that piracy does indeed pose a threat worthy of addressing, there were major concerns that this legislation left too much room for abuse and overreaching misinterpretations.
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At the risk of oversimplification, both bills would hold site owners accountable and potentially punishable for all content that potentially violates copyrights or intellectual property, including content submitted and created by users.
On the outset, this seems reasonable, and many site owners agree that copyright and IP protection is essential if the internet is to continue fostering new content and innovation.
There are limits to the scope of power that should be placed in government or private hands when protecting these interests, however, and it’s the distinct lack of checks and balances on this power outraged those in opposition. Take a site like Reddit.com, for example.
A social bookmarking and content aggregation site at its core, Reddit allows users to post and comment on virtually anything. Now say a Reddit user posts a video that may or may not be considered copyrighted material. Under SOPA & PIPA, the copyright holder would have the power to effectively bring Reddit offline with a simple accusation of infringement.
The burden of proof that the content is not in violation of copyright would rest on Reddit, or alternatively, they would be allowed to self-censor and remove the content themselves.
Again, this is a dramatically over-simplified example, but you can see the dangers in this scenario. Sites such as Reddit, that may be seeing BILLIONS of page views per month, could potentially encounter these types of accusations thousands of times per day. Let alone dealing with the administrative costs of handling these, a community that prides itself on open dialog and freedom of speech would end up a bed of censorship and quickly abandoned.
So what is ACTA? Well, to put it simply, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is the result of US media interests lobbying overseas, though its consequences are even further-reaching than SOPA or PIPA were.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has a deeper explanation of it, but essentially ACTA uses intentionally vague language to get around ever actually defining what constitutes Intellectual Property.
Furthermore, it gives far-reaching powers of surveillance to those claiming that their IP or copyrights are being infringed upon. And depending on which country you happen to be suspected of this infringement, you may be blocked indefinitely from internet services, heavily fined or imprisoned.
ACTA has been signed by several countries already, including the United States and the European Union (and 22 of its member states), though no country has yet ratified the agreement. The battle for privacy and the preservation of an open and free internet is just beginning, however, with proponents and opponents alike rallying support for their sides, Read also:- Pubg lite for PC.
Yet while 2012 has already seen many global protests against the agreement, the internet has to stage the same level of protests that it did against SOPA and PIPA. Let’s hope that when the time comes the internet giants that brought SOPA and PIPA to the public consciousness can do the same for ACTA.