Web

Death blow: ACTA suffers fifth rejection vote in Europe

ACTA Stop-ACTA

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote about the highly contentious Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA), an international treaty that seeks to impose standardized copyright laws around the world. The agreement has been on and off the ropes for months, as the European Parliament has struggled amidst anti-ACTA protests and the pleas of passionate supporters. But this morning, ACTA suffered a rejection that likely foreshadows its death.

Earlier today, a fifth parliamentary committee voted that the European Union reject ACTA when it comes up for a full parliament vote early next month. Over the past few weeks, four other committees — Industry, Civil Liberties, Development, Legal Affairs — all voted against EU adoption of ACTA, despite impassioned arguments from the treaty’s supporters.

Is ACTA really dead? Not yet.

The 19-12 rejection from the International Trade committee (known as INTA) was viewed by many as a linchpin decision capable of determining ACTA’s fate in Europe, and thus its effectiveness as an international treaty.

This, however, isn’t exactly the case. Committee votes are simply to help Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) decide how to vote on particular issues, with each committee lending its particular expertise on an issue. But considering the high-profile nature of ACTA, it is likely that MEPs already know how they will vote. Still, the fact that five committees have now recommended a rejection of ACTA shows that the treaty has little chance of European adoption.

Remind me what ACTA is again…

As mentioned, ACTA seeks to establish international standards for copyright protection, and a legal framework for combating the illegal distribution of copyrighted goods, including music and movies, medicine, and knock-off physical goods. Further, ACTA would establish an independent governing body, an “ACTA committee,” which would oversee the implementation of intellectual property laws.

ACTA has already been signed by 31 countries around the world, including the United States, Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Canada, Morocco, and New Zealand. The EU and 22 member states have also signed — but so far, the treaty has not been ratified by any country. (In fact, the U.S. claims that it is not really a treaty, but simply an “executive agreement,” which means it does not have to be ratified by Congress.)

Why are people so against ACTA?

Complaints against ACTA run far and wide. But here are the main points of contention:

First, many civil liberty advocates believe ACTA would threaten freedom of speech and expression online by imposing strict laws against the distribution of intellectual property.

Second, ACTA would allow customs agents to seize property they believe infringe upon copyright laws, even if the final destination of those goods do not violate laws in their destination country. This means that generic drugs could be confiscated en route to the country where they are needed, something critics say unfairly punishes third-world nations where this type of medicine is dearly needed.

This point caused French MEP Kader Arif to resign in the early days of ACTA’s consideration in Europe.

“The problem with ACTA is that, by focusing on the fight against violation of intellectual property rights in general, it treats a generic drug just as a counterfeited drug,” said Arif in an interview with the Guardian. “This means the patent holder can stop the shipping of the drugs to a developing country, seize the cargo and even order the destruction of the drugs as a preventive measure.”

Third, ACTA pushes for countries to create strict copyright protection legislation, but does not include any incentives for the implementation of safety valves, like fair use and public domain — two key legal features we enjoy here in the U.S.

Finally, ACTA was negotiated in near secret, which meant that very few of the people would be affected by the treaty had any say in its contents. This made ACTA an enemy of the people from the start.

To read more details about the problems surrounding ACTA see here, here, and here.

What happens if the EU rejects ACTA?

A “no” vote for ACTA in Europe would greatly reduce its relevance and effectiveness — international treaties only work when countries actually decide to abide by them. Without Europe on board, ACTA would be meaningless in most of the world. Other countries could still choose to ratify ACTA, but without Europe (or China, which has never been part of the process), the treaty would be largely impotent.

Conclusion

Given the intense lobbying for ACTA, the treaty still has a chance of adoption in Europe — but today’s rejection by INTA makes that chance far smaller. That said, even if the European Parliament rejects ACTA when it votes in about 10 days, it’s entirely possible — even likely — that another, similar treaty will be submitted. And then we’ll go ’round and ’round again.

Emerging Tech

‘Rogue medicine in a bathtub’: 4 experts on the vice and virtue of pharma hacking

A biohacker, pharmahacker, and two bioethicists walk into a bar. We ordered them a metaphorical round and had a chat about the risks and rewards of DIY medicine — from unsanctioned gene therapy to medication made on the kitchen counter.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix in August, from ‘Arrested Development’ to ‘Dark Tourist’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Mobile

Find your way around Google Maps with these handy tips and tricks

How good are your navigation skills? We've got a delectable menu of Google Maps tips and tricks for you right here, to take the pain out of your trips. Go from newbie to mapping master and learn how to use Google Maps.
Emerging Tech

Widespread internet access is causing mass sleep deprivation, study suggests

A study claims that high-speed internet may be costing us up to 25 minutes of sleep per night. And, surprisingly, the biggest problem isn't among those young people who are under 30.
Computing

Network routers with roaming enabled are likely susceptible to a new attack

Jens Steube discovered a new method to break into network routers while researching new ways to attack the WPA3 security standard. He stumbled onto an attack technique capable of cracking hashed WPA-PSK passwords.
Computing

Saving your favorite YouTube videos for posterity is quick, easy with these tools

Learning how to download YouTube videos is easier than you might think. There are plenty of great tools you can use, both online and offline. These are our favorites and a step by step guide on how to use them.
Computing

Hacker plays ‘Doom’ on John McAfee’s ‘unhackable’ BitFi Bitcoin wallet

The BitFi hardware cryptocurrency wallet isn't as unhackable as John McAfee claims. A 15-year-old bedroom hacker has managed to get Doom running on the device, suggesting its days may soon be numbered.
Computing

Having issues with Microsoft Edge? Here's how to fix the most common problems

If you're feeling frustrated with Microsoft Edge, or have run into a serious problem with Windows 10's built-in browser, take a look at these common issues and the solutions that can help you get back on track.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

Amazon Prime brings more perks than just free two-day shipping. Subscribers get access to a huge library of TV shows to stream at no extra cost. Here are our favorite TV shows currently available on Amazon Prime.
Music

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which music streaming service is better for you?

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Photography

The best place to print photos online: Seven top photo labs

Have you been looking around for the best place to print out your favorite photos online? Don't fret, we've pored through dozens of options and narrowed it down to the seven best.
Computing

The browser-based Monero miner Coinhive generates around $250,000 each month

Despite a fall in cryptocurrency mining, the Coinhive Monero miner is still highly active, generating around $250,000 each month. Coinhive also contributes 1.18 percent of the total mining power behind the Monero blockchain.
Computing

The Andromeda botnet still lingers as nations struggle to clean infected PCs

A report by Fortinet suggests that although the FBI and Europe ended the Andromeda botnet’s reign in late 2017, there are still infected PCs. Cleaning up these PCs isn’t progressing at the same pace across various regions.
Social Media

How to use Adobe Spark Post to spice up your social media images

Images are proven to get more likes than plain text -- but only if those images are good. Adobe Spark post is an AI-powered design program for non-designers. Here's how to use it to take your social media feeds to the next level.