Leaked ACTA draft reveals plans for internet clampdown
Subscribe now for $100 (23 issues) and save more than 37% off the cover price!
Get the latest news from Computerworld delivered via email.
Sign up now
The US, Europe and other countries including New Zealand are secretly drawing up rules designed to crack down on copyright abuse on the internet, in part by making ISPs liable for illegal content, according to a copy of part of the confidential draft agreement that was seen by the IDG News Service.
It is the latest in a series of leaks from the anticounterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) talks that have been going on for the past two years. Other leaks over the past three months have consisted of confidential internal memos about the negotiations between European lawmakers.
See also: ACTA briefing reveals little, details kept secret
ACTA talks in Mexico to address transparency concerns
ACTA progress in Mexico, but no consensus
The chapter on the internet from the draft treaty was shown to the IDG News Service by a source close to people directly involved in the talks, who asked to remain anonymous. Although it was drawn up last October, it is the most recent negotiating text available, according to the source.
It proposes making ISPs (internet service providers) liable under civil law for the content their subscribers upload or download using their networks.
To avoid being sued by a record company or Hollywood studio for illegally distributing copyright-protected content, the ISP would have to prove that it took action to prevent the copyright abuse, according to the text, and in a footnote gives an example of the sort of policy ISPs would need to adopt to avoid being sued by content owners:
"An example of such a policy is providing for the termination in appropriate circumstances of subscriptions and accounts in the service provider's system or network of repeat offenders," the text states.
Terminating someone's subscription is the graduated response enacted in France last year that sparked widespread controversy. The French law is dubbed the "Three Strikes" law because French ISPs must give repeat file sharers two warnings before cutting off their connection.
Other countries in Europe are considering similar legal measures to crack down on illegal file-sharing. However, EU-wide laws waive ISPs' liability for the content of messages and files distributed over their networks.
European Commission officials involved in negotiating ACTA on behalf of the EU insist that the text being discussed doesn't contradict existing EU laws.
"There is flexibility in the European system. Some countries apply judicial solutions (to the problem of illegal file-sharing), others find technical solutions," said an official on condition he wasn't named.
He said the EU doesn't want to make a "three strikes" rule obligatory through the ACTA treaty. "Graduated response is one of many methods of dealing with the problem of illegal file-sharing," he said.
He also admitted that some in the Commission are uncomfortable about the lack of transparency in the ACTA negotiations.
"The fact that the text is not public creates suspicion. We are discussing internally whether the negotiating documents should be released," he said, but added that even if it was agreed in Brussels that the documents should be made public, such a move would require the approval of the EU's 10 ACTA negotiating partners.
The participating countries are the US, the E.U., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Jordan, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.
In a separate leak that first appeared on blogs last week, the European Commission updated members of the European Parliament on the most recent face-to-face meeting between the signatory countries, which took place in Mexico at the end of last month.
According to that leak, the internet chapter of the treaty was discussed, but no changes to the position suggested by the US last fall were agreed.
"The internet chapter was discussed for the first time on the basis of comments provided by most parties to US proposal. The second half of the text (technological protection measures) was not discussed due to lack of time," the memo said, adding:
"Discussions still focus on clarification of different technical concepts, therefore, there was not much progress in terms of common text. The US and the EU agreed to make presentations of their own systems at the next round, to clarify issues."
The Commission official refused to comment on the content of the leaked documents.
The next meeting of ACTA negotiators will take place in New Zealand in April.
Not at all. This is why the ACTA negotiations are taking place among many countries. The intent is that they will ALL sign and implement simultaneously. They want the law in place around the world, abd the countries who are not signatory will be expected to toe the line.
Should the Internet Service Providers be forced to spy on their customers? No way!
The REAL reason for making this treaty and putting these laws into effect around the world is NOT to prevent "piracy", but rather to stop the internet distribution.
No, not the personal use copyright infringement, but rather the LEGAL filesharing, which is the REAL threat to the giant media companies.
It's started in the music business: Musicians no longer NEED to give their copyroght to the Giant Media companies in order to make it. Many are already distributing their music online. 30% of today's music business is truly independent.
And "Sita Sings The Blues" indicates that this is the wave of the future for the movie industry as well.
That is what they are really afraid of.
Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm at 16:49:37 on February 25, 2010
Posted by starman1695 at 10:13:25 on February 24, 2010
As a result, movie stars, directors, producers, advertisers and all the other ticket-clippers down the line get to add another zero or two to their pay packets.
It has been a real pleasure over the last couple of years to see DVD-hire and music stores drop their prices to a reasonable level. Has everyone forgotten the ridiculous and extortionate prices they used to charge for new releases? Get ready for prices for DVDs and CDs to go back up folks....
Posted by Richard at 8:42:13 on February 24, 2010
Posted by Vinmagic555 at 19:17:46 on February 23, 2010
Posted by Truth at 3:41:20 on February 24, 2010
Besides which, I do not agree that ISPs should be accountable for the activity of subscribers, should Telecom or Vodafone be accountable for discussions of illegal activity on mobiles and landlines? Should the post office be accountable for illegal material sent through the mail - if they aren't why should an ISP be.
If there is issue with getting sites or users shut down who are know offenders, sort that part out - don't make it impossible for the rest of us just for the few who misbehave.
Posted by Anonymous at 17:57:26 on February 23, 2010
Posted by soran at 2:01:14 on February 24, 2010
Posted by rrm at 22:53:08 on February 22, 2010
ISPs need to be held accountable for their willful enabling of copyright violation. It doesn't take much effort for an ISP to shut down a Website. Anyone who says otherwise either doesn't know what they are talking about or is lying.
It takes MORE effort for an ISP to hem, haw, and refuse to take action because you fail to dot an "i" or cross a "t" and have to follow up with a second DMCA takedown request (and I have had to go to 5-6 requests with some providers).
It's time to give owners of intellectual property rights some leverage. Will RIAA abuse that leverage? Sure. But they are not the only interested party.
Posted by Michael Martinez at 21:39:28 on February 22, 2010
Posted by Bill McGann at 18:36:37 on February 24, 2010