Categorized | Opinion

New threat to the Internet: ACTA

Posted on 11 April 2012 by admin

GaganBatra

With the news of the Occupy movements dying down, people have time to focus their attention on issues that may be more relevant to their lives. SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act was a bill that originated in the United States. The goal of this bill is, in its name, to stop online piracy. Although SOPA has been denied and has not come into effect, the battle to keep our privacy and expression over the internet still continues. Since SOPA did not work out the way the governments expected it to, the worldwide version of it, ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, has come onto the playing field. Like SOPA, this act is concerned with “protecting” copyrighted material on the internet and is aimed at preventing piracy. The major concern that I have with this bill is the same that others have been expressing; the censoring of the internet. In today’s day and age, people rely on the internet as their main source of information, news, entertainment and communication. ACTA will interfere with people’s ability to download music, movies, TV shows, e-books and other copyrighted forms of media. The bill will also impede on people’s rights to stream things online, similar to the threat that SOPA posed.

The main argument for this bill is that it will help to protect authors and artists from having their work plagiarized and essentially stolen. SOPA was being paired with PIPA, the Protect Intellectual Property Act, to hinder people’s access to websites that are involved in copyright infringement. Included in the targets of SOPA and PIPA were any websites from which free downloads are made possible. However, the government does reserve the right to block any other websites that provide information on how to work around the censorship being put into place. Now that SOPA and PIPA are out of the picture, ACTA is taking their place as a worldwide bill that limits people’s accessibility to material on the internet.

I, like many others who have and are opposing SOPA, PIPA and ACTA alike, am not looking forward to the diminishing integrity of the internet. We have become so accustomed to a certain manner of streaming, downloading and uploading over the internet, that the threat of having our rights taken away seems too shocking to accept.

The question people are posing is that if the government can come up with a way to censor websites from which people download and stream media, how long until they interfere with other aspects of the internet? Censorship, in any manner of speaking, has a negative connotation. People are arguing that it is an infringement of their right to free speech and freedom of expression.

I am sure that people are aware of the blackouts that Wikipedia and other websites like Reddit participated in earlier this year. The whole point of these blackouts was to protest against SOPA and PIPA. Since then, the popular video streaming medium that we know and love, Megaupload, has been shut down. Many of my friends expressed dissatisfaction at the removal of the website and as a result find themselves angrier towards the government’s new policies. Following protests held by various websites, SOPA and PIPA had apparently lost many of their supporters. However, it can be argued that ACTA is a more extreme version of the initial bills, as it relates to all countries across the globe and establishes rules and regulations that are internationally recognized.

The censorship of websites includes those all over the internet. Megaupload itself was not based in the United States, but Hong Kong. It is not just Americans who must be concerned about the acts that are threatening the internet, but people all around the world. There is a provision to the Canadian copyright bill in the process of being made that gives the Canadian government the authority to block pirating websites in order to “protect the Canadian marketplace”.

In my opinion, SOPA, PIPA, ACTA and other forms of legislation alike, pose the risk of us losing the integrity of the internet, a source that we have become so dependent on. I do not think it is over. The blackout protests definitely raised awareness, but something more needs to be done to protect our online community. Today, there are websites all over the internet devoted to petitioning ACTA and urging their government to reconsider the passing of such legislation. Either way, governments are continually formulating new and improved laws around the protection of material on the internet. Even if ACTA do not pass, there is bound to be another plan in the making to limit people’s access to the internet.

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