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Are You Calling Me a Pirate, Pirate? How a Treaty You’ve Never Heard of Could Steal Your Free Speech and Internet Access Forever

Posted on February 26 2010 1:00 pm
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The movie “The Pirates of the Caribbean” is the perfect application of the  phrase “It takes one to know one”. Two pirate captains, Barbossa and Jack Sparrow, battle against each other to gain power by the use of dirty tricks. Even the Royal Navy, who you would think to be the good guys, sink to the use of treachery. Moreover, the highest ranking officer, Lord Cutler Beckett, is in cahoots with the East India Trading Company and turns out to be the biggest rat aboard ship.

The message, if there is one, seems to be: Trust no one- least of all government bureaucrats.

Our government is hunting pirates in way that mirrors this movie. The Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), is a treaty between the U.S., the E.U, Australia, Canada and other countries, that tries to clampdown on Internet piracy by using pirate tactics. The ACTA is an outlaw treaty that seeks to steal one of our most precious possessions- our right to free speech.

ACTA Treaty negotiations have been going on, in secret, for the past two years.  The main advocates of the Treaty are the Movie and Music Industries. The obvious question is why are the governments of the world playing henchman for these corporations? While there are many possible explanations, the one that is the most troubling is that the ACTA is pirate booty for politicians.

“It is unprecedented for an IP treaty that impacts literally millions of people to be negotiated in such secrecy.” he said, adding that the U.S. negotiated stance “runs counter to the Obama Administration’s commitment to transparency.” Michael Giest- Law Professor  at Ottowa University- quoted in Computerworld

This global treaty has a shocking proposal. A PCWorld article from IDG News Service titled “Leaked ACTA Draft Treaty Reveals Plans for Net Clampdown” explains that if you are caught, or even accused, of copyright abuse 3x, you will lose your Internet access FOREVER. Your family members could also be permanently denied access to all Internet Service Providers. In the information age, this is tantamount to exile in Siberia.

Moreover, the accused will have nowhere to protest. Copyright holders don’t even have to prove that they actually own the material in question. All that is required is that an accusation be made; there are no investigations or court orders. An article from “Computerworld”  by Paul Meller, explains that ISPs that don’t comply will also be labeled as pirates and held liable. You don’t need a degree from Harvard Law to figure out the myriad of ways this draconian treaty could be abused.

The lack of national coverage is another disturbing component to this story. The information I found for this article came from a radio tech show and computer magazines. The ramifications of this treaty are startling. Imagine how easy it would be for a government to silence dissent using this treaty as political cover. Do you think that the governments of China or Venezuela will honor the intent of the treaty? Will our government? Where is the media spotlight? Sorry, I forgot about Tiger Woods. I can’t help but feel that we about to set sail aboard The Black Pearl. I anticipate the day that I click the wrong key on my computer and some bureaucrat pirate screams “Walk the plank Limey!”

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