Is There A New ACTA Already In The Works?

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We reported on Monday that ACTA is dying, slowly and painfully. It received its death knell when David Martin MEP suggested that ACTA be rejected altogether. While not a definitive sign of its death, just trust me on this - it's dying. The massive protests all across Europe will make sure that happens. There's just one little problem though - remember when SOPA and PIPA were killed? What happened afterwards? Did the government and big content just hang their heads and give up? Of course not, they're now trying to pass CISPA, the same thing in a new coating of cyber security goodness.

All of this is to say that ACTA is going to rise again in a form similar to CISPA. It's the same thing - wrapped in good intentions instead of an outright attack on civil liberties. The news comes to us from EDRi, the European Digital Rights group. They have obtained a copy of a new proposal that the G8 are working on.

The good news according to EDRi is that those writing this new proposal seem to have learned a few things from ACTA. You just can't apply a single solution to all the world's issues from IP rights to physical counterfeiting. The new treaty focuses wholly on counterfeit goods and medicines.

While this sounds like a win for the Internet, don't be happy just yet. The section regarding the Internet in the new treaty outline is pretty much word for word from a White House report on IP rights Enforcement. As EDRi puts it:

The G8 document seeks to export the entire US policy on the role of intermediaries in the trade in physical counterfeits. In particular, it seeks to make American companies into a form of global non-judicial police force / government, with responsibilities ranging from “educating” citizens to policing and, ultimately, punishing companies and citizens on the basis of allegations.

Such measures would include removing entire domain names from the Internet, removal of companies from search engine results, removal of advertising services and the blocking of payments if the intermediary is informed that they “may be supporting transactions involving counterfeit merchandise”. While very unwelcome, the proposal on intermediaries is simply an explicit expression of what many law-makers fail to see is implicit in ACTA – that global, almost entirely US-based companies, would be responsible for online policing - including being judge, jury and executioner wherever they see fit.

When you look at it that way, it's still pretty scary. It's not as forthcoming as ACTA was in terms of its Internet policing ambitions, but it's still there nonetheless. The fact that it's more hidden this time should be more cause for alarm.

Pirate Party UK leader Loz Kaye spoke to The Inquirer about the leaked document. He said that besides the obvious danger to online civil liberties, the counterfeit medicine segment of the treaty is cause for concern. He says that this proposal, like ACTA, makes no distinction between counterfeit fake drugs and generic drugs. This would make generic drugs illegal and only allow expensive corporate produced drugs to be sold. The danger lies in the fact that many poor citizens rely on generic drugs to stay alive or counter illnesses.

Regardless of whether you're concerned about the Internet or generic drugs, Kaye says that all the offensive elements of ACTA are back in this new proposal. So don't expect to rest easy when ACTA inevitably dies because they're just going to bring up another treaty just like it. They may even take a cue from TPP and keep the public outside of the realm of influence.

Do you think the new proposal is as bad as ACTA? Does this mean that the G8 already concedes that ACTA was a failure? Let us know in the comments.

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