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Citizens around the globe are more concerned than ever with SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), ACTA (Anti- Counterfeiting Trade Agreement), and PIPA (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act). Behind all of these mechanisms are economic interests from big companies who claim to lose more than 200 billion euros per year, due to piracy.
The legislation has broad support from organizations that rely on copyright, such as the Motion Pictures Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Macmillan US, Viacom, Nike, L´Oreal, and Acushnet among others. The opposition group includes companies such as Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Linkendin, Ebay, Mozilla Corporation, Human Rights Watch, and many more.
SOPA and PIPA are two sister bills currently being considered by the House of Commons and the Senate, respectively. Both are designed to tackle the problem of foreign-based websites that sell pirated movies, music and other products. SOPA and PIPA are very similar, but SOPA includes a provision making it illegal to stream unauthorized copyrighted content. Access could be blocked by making it impossible for users to type in a simple web address into a browser to reach the site, or by requiring search engines like Google to disable links to the sites.
What is clear, is that ACTA and SOPA have the same objective, which is to protect against copyright infringement, by blocking certain elements of the internet. Monica Horten (www.iptegrity.com) defines SOPA as a mechanism to stop websites from being visible or trading in the United States, in order to avoid American citizens getting access to websites and services which are hosted outside the United States.
SOPA is a theft and antipiracy bill that seeks to protect American property, so it appears like a way to give US authorities carte blanche to police copyright worldwide.
It is important to point out that ACTA does not comply with American intellectual property and copyright law, as SOPA does, stopping websites that are indulging in unethical behavior, such as cyber crimes, or intellectual property right violations, which can be forced to be taken down or blocked in U.S. websites. For example, Megavideo and Megaloud have been some of the victims of SOPA, while FilseSonic has disabled its feature allowing users to share files on its site.
ACTA could be viewed as international version of SOPA, which aims to establish international intellectual property standards, focusing on conterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement. Countries need to have their own versions of copyright law. The proposals of ACTA focus on counterfeit goods and generic medications. This means that generic drugs and food patents will be more difficult to obtain in countries like India and Brazil, who are against ACTA.
Phil Hunt, the UK Pirate Party’s foreign policy spokesman told theinquirer.net: “Criticism of ACTA has often focused on the harm it will do to the Internet, but that doesn’t address one of the most important issues that ACTA presents: the fact that it will kill sick people in developing countries by denying them access to affordable generic drugs- whilst doing nothing to address the issue of unsafe counterfeit medications.”
The ACTA treaty was signed by the United States, Australia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea last October. The European Union, Mexico, and Switzerland have not yet signed because of their domestic procedures. The treaty has be to translated into all of the E.U. languages. In the United States, there is a petition to end ACTA and to protect internet privacy, signed by more than 30,000 citizens who are calling on the Obama administration to veto the treaty.
In Europe, opposition to ACTA has picked up in the past few weeks, with thousands protesting across Eastern Europe and in Germany, France, and Ireland. On January 26, while the Polish Government signed ACTA, Polish Members of Parliament wore Guy Fawkes masks, like the one in V for Vendetta, in order to protest the treaty. It was an ironic jab at Time Warner, who owns the intellectual rights to the movie.
Last week, the European Union suspended attempts to ratify the international anti-counterfeiting treaty, ACTA, and asked Europe’s high court to see if the controversial proposal violates any fundamental E.U. rights. E.U. trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said on Wednesday that an opinion from the European court of justice would clear what he called the “fog of misinformation” surrounding ACTA. De Gucht told reporters in Brussels, “ACTA will not censor websites, or shut them down; ACTA will not hinder freedom of the internet or freedom of speech.”
De Gucht continued, “Intellectual property is Europe’s main raw material, but the problem is that we currently struggle to protect it outside the E.U. This hurts our companies, destroys jobs, and harms our economies.”
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