ACTA – Legislating for Anarchy

Posted on February 8, 2012


The debate on Internet freedom of speech and data regulation rumbles on to its next chapter. No sooner have the US attempts to weasel control over the Internet been quashed than the spotlight swings across the pond onto Europe.

Up comes ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). Or should I say, ACTA’s long gestation in closed sessions, has come up against strong opposition in Europe which is hoped will derail what is a pernicious piece of Trade Negotiation. The European Parliament may be the last hope to reign in ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement).

Anti-Counterfeiting, sounds all good stuff and something the good guys of the Net would likely support. But for the fact that this has been an initiative conducted behind closed doors, and by a group of parties that gives a frighteningly distorted representation of all the parties who should have a voice in such discussions. Driven largely by commercial interests, both directly in open voiced support as well as through the shady world of high stakes lobbying.

ACTA can be synthesised into a simple sentence – The empowerment of corporate interests to police Internet content and impose penalties that extend to the restriction of an individual’s freedom if a large intellectual property-based organizations feels their business has been harmed.

This is not confined to the EU, ACTA is planned for adoption across the US, EU and other countries including Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea, as a precursor to global roll-out. Furthermore this has been on a slow burn now for almost 4 years!

I am not going to relay the details of the agreement; you can read a good potted history and the salient elements on the venerable Wikipedia at

The impact this will have extends beyond just the freedom of speech the Internet has become a bastion for, but the more practical economics’ that the Internet is stimulating and risks supressing innovation as well as imposing an onerous overhead on an already distressed Small Medium Enterprise community. The ability for SME’s to manage their online activities will become a minefield, for many this could mean cutting off liberal use of a rich information resource, at a cost to their full potential.

Whilst we all recognise that the digital network realm is challenging the traditional laws on Copyright, Intellectual Property and Trademark protection, the ACTA approach is counterproductive as a practical solution. It is regressive in its thinking, instead of encouraging these large intellectual property-based organizations to adapt and innovate in the face of these challenges to the betterment of their own shareholders as well as the global user community at large, the agreement is taking a silo approach. Trying to build walls on crumbling foundations of a state of being that the world is moving on from.

The Internet ‘gift economy’ has already suffered extensive compromises to the good faith and trust of a global audience without the help of regulators. (See my earlier blog on Digital Enslavement ) As the freely given time and resources of users that fostered the term ‘gift economy’ is being harvested by large corporates such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr amongst others, far from the egalitarian impact potential hoped for. It has instead inadvertently accelerated the concentration of wealth in the hands of large intellectual property-based organizations. Organisations that are now with their Billion Dollar war chests hooked deep into policy makers and clawing for greater control.

We need to support the converse; it would be more beneficial to global economic regeneration to relax the rules that give large intellectual property-based organizations such power. To cut away at the Intellectual Property ‘thickets’ that restrict innovation and tie up creativity. For Magic happens here……….