Secret copyright treaty takes aim at ISPs

23 Feb 2010

There’s been another leak from the Anticounterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that indicates negotiators remain determined to hold ISPs responsible for any copy infringement that takes place over their networks.

ACTA is a global intellectual property treaty now being negotiated.

A portion of a draft affirms that it would require ISPs countries to adopt notice/takedown and anti-circumvention provisions similar to ones included in the USA’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The first would require ISPs to block or disable content if the copyright holder claims infringement (without having to actually prove legally that infringement has in fact taken place, judging from the wording).

The second would make it illegal for anyone to work around or otherwise fiddle with DRM and other copyright protection mechanisms – potentially to include security researchers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a list of examples of how anti-circumvention laws do more harm than good, but a memorable example is the Sony-BMG rootkit fiasco that left millions of computers vulnerable to attacks. That security hole wasn’t reported for weeks because the Princeton University grad student who discovered it was busy talking to lawyers finding a way to disclose it without violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention clause.

The ACTA draft chapter also addresses the three-strikes provision that would require ISPs to cut off accused infringers completely. The good news is that ACTA would not make it mandatory for ISPs to adopt three-strikes. However, it does require ISPs to take active measures to stop copyright infringement, and gives only one example of how to do that: three-strikes.

As usual, several caveats apply. It’s not yet clear just how authentic this document is (although previous leaks have never been shown to be fakes). And if it is the real thing, it’s still a draft copy, reportedly from as far back as October. (The PDF copy of the draft is here if you want to see it for yourself.)

Either way, I’ve written before about why three-strikes policies won’t help stop P2P piracy, and why ACTA itself is bad news for ISPs, chiefly for the super-secret nature of the negotiations that doesn’t appear to include them.

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