Friday, November 6, 2009

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)

I believe copyright should be rethought in light of computers. We rethought it for the printing press, and computers are enough of a reason to rethink it again. Naturally, large incumbent companies, such as the ones represented by the RIAA, want to increase law enforcement enough that they can continue their business models even though the content is digitized and is distributed over the Internet.

That said, I even more strongly believe that the issue should be discussed in public, not worked out behind closed doors. The public should not be treated as masses of sheep on gaming board. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is being worked out, right now, in just that way. The only people invited are major government agents and their personal choices.

Naturally, the details of ACTA are hard to come by, but the emphasis seems to be on imposing liability on the third parties that distribute content. That's worrisome in general, because improvements in content distribution is one of the key ways that the Internet can continue to advance human well-being. For that matter, retiring dinosaur business models is also key to improving human well-being. I don't see anything good for the public coming from these negotiations. Perhaps that's why they are being held so quietly.

If the Obama Administration wants to prove its commitment to government transparency, there is an opportunity here.

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