We watched the collective web flex its muscles last week as sites went dark in protest of SOPA and PIPA, effectively killing the anti-piracy bills that were up for review in both houses of Congress. Time for a new acronym: ACTA, which stands for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. This time out, the anti-piracy crime-fighting effort is an international affair. To put it in superhero terms, ACTA is less bat cave and more Hall of Justice. Canada, Japan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and the U.S. have all signed on to the agreement (they all agree to agree?).
Acta has been negotiated as a trade agreement, which has allowed it certain freedoms from democratic scrutiny. Critics argue that this is copyright legislation being pushed through under the guise of a trade agreement so that it doesn't get debated as much. Unusually for a trade agreement, there are criminal sanctions.
Some see the sticking point in article 23 of the agreement, which, “not only insists on criminal penalties for piracy but also for those accused of ‘aiding and abetting’ copyright infringement -- the member states had to be represented at the table.” Similar ideas were the downfall of SOPA and PIPA as websites feared to big a net could be cast to shut down legitimate pages.
Right now ACTA is up for a vote, possibly this week, in the European Parliament. It would need to be ratified by member nations in order to take effect. With help from a few more acronyms, we’ll be able to get a good game of Piracy Edition Boggle going in no time.