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Tech at Night: Is ACTA a problem, and the return of Internet Kill Switch lite?

Tech at Night

There’s a lot of fear going around about ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a plurilateral agreement under the WTO between the US, the EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, and Morocco. Some of the fears look real, some don’t. For example, even though it was negotiated in secret, the text is easily available.

Another false complaint is that it’s another SOPA, when in fact such a claim misses the point. SOPA was a bad bill, as it turned out to be a censorship bill that defied due process, but the intent was to fight the problem of free riding on copyright and trademark. Crossing international boundaries has been a cheap and easy way to cash in on another country’s copyright and trademark laws without having to abide by them. SOPA tried to fix that in a crude, rude, and ineffective way. ACTA has more options, and doesn’t have to resort to censorship, necessarily.

I’ve just read the treaty. I don’t really see a problem. Even if infringement isn’t ruining the movies and music, trademark and copyright are Constitutional concepts worthy of protection. That’s why some of the anti-SOPA leaders are promoting their own bill.

The pro-liberty position is not one of anarchy. It’s time to get reasonable protections in place. Maybe I missed something, and ACTA is a problem. But the best argument I see against ACTA is that it only includes a few countries, and not those best known for infringement (such as China, either China in fact). ACTA may yet be harmless but ineffective, as opposed to SOPA being harmful and ineffective.

So no, don’t expect me to cry either that Megaupload’s data is dying. Businesses that profit from mass copyright infringement deserve to die. And besides, did people ever see that website? It was shady like crazy all along. Everyone knew this.

Now, on the other hand, what I do see and have seen a problem with are the various “cybersecurity” proposals we keep seeing. The worst of course was the infamous Internet Kill Switch, which actually was even more dangerous than it sounded: It proposed to give the President “emergency” dictatorial powers over broad ranges of private property related to the Internet.

A new bill has apparently eased up from that ridiculous degree, but there are still concerns that it gives too much of that power over certain companies, such as government contractors. Republicans Kay Bailey Hutchison, Chuck Grassley, and Saxby Chambliss along with Lisa Murkowski wrote in Politico that the current plan “is ultimately a costly and heavy-handed regulatory approach. It will not work and it won’t pass Congress.” If they’re right on the former, I hope they’re right on the latter. We don’t need to create yet more “broad new regulatory powers.”

I also maintain my opposition to the role of government in policing private sector ‘privacy violations.’ If you don’t like Google, use competitors or take sensible precautions like not staying logged in and using the same cookie across all their sites. There’s simply no place for Mary Bono Mack to act here. Also, as I analyzed in the past, Carrier IQ was a total nothingburger and it’s simply grandstanding for Edward Markey to push the issue, especially since the guy never did take a stand against SOPA. He’s trying to change the subject.

Notes about the Twitters: Be careful what you broadcast internationally about your travel plans before trying to travel to another country. Also, Thailand applauds Twitters’ newer, narrower censorship compliance tools. I’ve seen no word yet on how many EU countries will use those tools.

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