The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The name alone fills me with dread.
The aim of this law is to create a legal body that would watch over items, medicine and creative content on the internet. Now, I don’t know nearly enough about business to say how goods would be affected, but I can tell you that any law that tries to look out for copyright infringement on the interwebs sounds a heck of a lot like SOPA to me.
The problem, as I’ve already said on the forums I frequent, is that many people in positions of power just do not understand how the internet works or the culture that surrounds it. I know that people are just trying to protect their creative content and intellectual properties, but even without these laws people are already getting in trouble on YouTube for uploading wedding videos or vlogs with the TV in the background just because there’s a copyrighted song playing. Now, these bills could effectively be used to blacklist all of this: not just the videos, but the sites that host them and, of course, no law is going to filter those people out because that will require time, effort and the employment of people who can tell the difference between the actual bad guys and people who aren’t making any money off this. Nope. Much easier just to brand everybody with the same stamp as actual content thieves. Case closed, let’s have a cold one.
I support the right people have to their own content and I buy games, CD’s and films from retailers to do so. Thus, you’d think that would give me the right to, say, post a video walkthrough of a new game online or make a parody that takes a scene from the new Christian Bale movie completely out of context and has an inappropriate song going on in the background. All of these things, according to the United States law, which YouTube and almost every other website under the sun subscribes to, are counted as “Fair Use”: which says that you can use other people’s content to educate others or parody it. However, that rule is gradually being subverted on the internet as it is.
Let’s take the recent Final Fantasy XIII-2, for example. Square Enix is taking down videos and issuing warnings to anybody who posts certain scenes. Granted, there are still a lot up, but they will still lock-on to and take down certain cutscenes or boss battle footage. Now, at the moment, the worst you can get is a strike on your YouTube account or a warning from DailyMotion, but laws like ACTA and SOPA could give them a right to legally start charging you for using their content: even though you bought the game in the first place and you’re not distributing illegal copies of it online.
Or, say I want to make a parody review of a film, like the people on That Guy With The Glasses. Same deal. Even if I go out of my way to buy the movie, show myself holding up my bought copy of the movie and make frequent references to the fact that it was made by a studio somewhere, I can still get in trouble for doing that. Even though I’m not stealing anything. Again, nobody is going to make any effort to filter people who actually use this material fairly. There are entire businesses built on this kind of thing and if these laws get through, then people will become too scared to start doing anything for fear that it’ll unleash the copyright hounds and we’ll all go back to the days before the internet; where if you wanted to share things fairly you had to do it in the confines of your own home. In the end, what we have is a situation where the law is whatever the big corporations and misguided politicians, hoping to look like the good guy by supporting anti-piracy acts without realising the ramifications of it, say it is.
You see, even though a lot is stolen on the internet, walkthroughs, parodies and everything else that has emerged from its culture is also a great tool for spreading awareness. I, for one, had no idea that games like Xenoblade existed, or that Blind Guardian had a new album out, until I saw snippets of them online: from covers of the latest song on someone’s acoustic guitar, to fan-made trailers that people put together themselves from bits of footage, to the official gameplay demonstrations. Seeing these kinds of things is what makes me want to buy products more than any magazine article, because I can see and hear them. That helps me to better judge if it’s something that I want to buy. I’m sure I’m not the only one who operates this way. If people start trying to clamp down on the internet, I reckon we’ll lose a lot of this: and that’s arguably worse for businesses than the pirates. After all, if people can’t find out about your product, they won’t buy it.
I’m not saying I support piracy in any sense, very far from it, but I do think that we need a different solution. I’m no tech expert, but how difficult could it be to develop software or better encryptions or whatever that makes it impossible for their digital content to be copied or stolen?
And if all of these fears can stem from nerd-concerns, I honestly don’t want to think about the effects ACTA could have on medicines.