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  • The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is an anti-piracy act much like SOPA or PIPA which has dominated the headlines in Ireland and abroad for the past several weeks and has sparked two protests in Dublin, attended by both young and old people, angry that their freedom of speech and privacy are in danger of being breached, over the course of two weeks and many more abroad. The attendance for these protests ranged from several hundred, as was the case with the second protest in Dublin, to 15,000 in Krakow, Poland. Many countries have signed the act, including Ireland, however some like Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Netherlands have refused to ratify the act. We know they are angry about this act, but what is it about ACTA that makes the so angry?

    With regards to border checks and customs control of import and export of signatory states, authorities have the right to detain, suspend and even destroy goods suspected of infringing a copyright/trademark and so do the copyright/trademark holders in accordance to the requirements set out by the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The problem is TRIPS allow for trademarking of “inventions” of any scientific kind, i.e. medication. Generic medication using patented technology will now be liable to be seized.

    How will authorities be able to detect whether or not a product or material is infringing a copyright/trademark? Governing bodies of ACTA will have to “adopt or maintain procedures by which its competent authorities may determine… whether the suspect goods infringe an intellectual property right.” This is clearly intentionally ambiguous wording and leaves much room for corruption.

    Legal action can be taken against copyright/trademark infringers, whether or not the infringement was intentional, ex parte (meaning without the participation or knowledge of copyright/trademark infringer). On top of that, infringers must pay the copyright/trademark holders “adequate to compensate for the injury the right holder has suffered as a result of the infringement.” This legal action now also applies to activities online.

    Cover songs and mix tapes will now be illegal under ACTA. It will be illegal to broadcast, distribute or make available “copies of works, performances, or phonograms,” knowing that it has “removed or altered without authority” the Digital Rights Management (DRM) information. Since all legally bought music, whether online or offline, is protected by DRM methods, this wording can be twisted to cover the aforementioned cover songs and mix tapes.

    “Online Service Providers” will have to give information to any copyright/trademark holder about an account or subscription suspected of infringing or aiding in the infringement of copyright/trademark. “Online service provider” being the important keywords. This wording covers not online Internet Service Providers, but also services like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube where months, if not years of your information rest. Simply posting a copyrighted song on your Facebook wall or tweeting it would be enough for companies to request your personal details, however, neither Facebook nor Youtube’s owner, Google, will lose sleep over this.
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