ACTA, or the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is an international treaty that was negotiated in secret over the span of four years. While the provisions are currently public, their genesis was hidden from democratic scrutiny, and most nations signed on to ACTA without any chance for their citizenry to review or comment on the process. Beyond its undemocratic origins, it’s often unclear how ACTA’s requirements would be implemented, or could be implemented without creating a technical architecture online that restricts speech. For instance, ACTA’s harsh DMCA-like provisions against anti-circumvention could effectively render some free software, which by its nature can’t support DRM, illegal in the Western world.
Many in Europe, and especially the former Soviet-controlled countries like Poland, are sensitive to anything that smacks of censorship. Activists in places like Poland and Germany saw the specter of authoritarian control in both the secretive imposition of ACTA and in the possible consequences of its technical provisions. The American architects of ACTA, not having had the recent experience of oppression, seem to have often been tone-deaf to the European fears.
I am currently reading Mark Helprin’s Digital Barbarism for a counterpoint to my views on intellectual property in the age of the internet. Expect a full-length post when I’m done.