ACTA treaty aims to deputize ISPs on copyrights


Declan McCullagh
CNet News
April 21, 2010

Internet service providers could become copyright cops encouraged to block access to suspected pirate Web sites, according to a previously secret draft treaty made public on Wednesday.

One section of the proposed digital copyright treaty says that immunity from lawsuits would be granted to Internet providers “disabling access” to pirated material and adopting a policy dealing with unauthorized “transmission of materials protected by copyright.” If the ISPs choose not to do so, they could face legal liability.

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Both the Obama administration and the Bush administration had rejected requests from civil libertarians and technologists for copies of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA. Last year, the White House went so far as to invoke an executive order saying disclosure would do “damage to the national security.”

But after the European Parliament voted last month by a 633-to-13 margin to demand the release of ACTA’s text, keeping it secret became too politically problematic for the countries represented in the closed-door negotiations. Besides the United States, the European Commission, Australia, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand are among the nations participating. They’ve been egged on by copyright lobby groups.

Much of the language in ACTA has been anonymously proposed by one nation or another but is not final, and it’s not clear whether the “disabling access” section will remain. Another nearby paragraph does say, in a nod to privacy concerns, that governments should not “impose a general monitoring requirement” on broadband providers. The language does appear to go further than U.S. laws governing broadband providers and copyright.

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