ACTA: an attempt to unify copyright law

Nathan Lawrence

As of press time, it has been roughly a week since a firestorm has broken out across the Internet over the anti-counterfeiting treaty, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which — among other things — forces signatories across the world, including Australia, most of the EU, the United States, Canada and Japan, to pass laws similar to those in the United States protecting the rights of content creators.

Many have expressed dissenting opinions for this treaty, calling it draconian, abusive and an attempt to circumvent normal legislative measures. However, I would like to take this opportunity to voice what I think is a much clearer, more staid opinion.

Though I do not support ACTA, I do see what it is attempting to do, and I respect those aims.

Right now, copyright law is a mess, both in the United States and the world. It seems that every country developed enough to have a clear distribution system has their own unique and quirky system to legally protect the rights of content creators.

Those who create content for distribution over the internet, obviously a globally accessible resource, must carefully consider not only their own country’s regulations, but also the dozens of other countries that may have completely different language in their own copyright legislation.

This can be a huge obstacle to internet publication. In fact, one of the reasons that publishers still remain the most popular and safest method of distribution for novels in this digital age is that they have enormous legal teams ready to tackle each of these countries’ unique content protection laws.

This disparity of copyright law is not only impractical, but also unacceptable. ACTA should help to narrow this gap significantly.

Though this treaty is overly strong — one particular provision has been interpreted as an attempt to censor websites which infringe copyright or have links to infringing material — the treaty itself is necessary to fix all the disparate rules and regulations until we can come up with a more universal and consistent language of legislation for such overarching matters.

People have claimed that ACTA is nothing more than a back-channel method of getting the same results as SOPA, that the record and film industries have simply moved their lobbies over to treaties instead of legislation. However, that isn’t what ACTA is intended for.

ACTA is supposed to prevent acts of criminal counterfeiting, acts like the distribution and manufacture of fake purses or sunglasses.

For now, this legislation seems to be dead, but something new is bound to rise in its place shortly. This time I would encourage people to carefully and critically consider the potential benefits of an agreement, as well as its consequences.

ACTA was not ideal, but it did offer potentially helpful improvements to the current system and the status quo. Needless to say, copyright law needs significant changes in this age of infinite copying without consequence.

ACTA may have offered some of these changes that were necessary along with the bad things. Throwing the baby out with the bath water doesn’t solve anything.