Google Seeks Input On Secret Copyright Treaty - InformationWeek
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1/6/2010
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Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Google Seeks Input On Secret Copyright Treaty

Google has asked Internet users to submit questions for a discussion it's hosting next week about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), an international treaty that the U.S. and other countries have been negotiating for the past two years.

Google has asked Internet users to submit questions for a discussion it's hosting next week about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), an international treaty that the U.S. and other countries have been negotiating for the past two years.ACTA aims harmonize and strengthen copyright enforcement among signatories, though the exact details remain unknown to the public as the treaty has been negotiated in secret.

That alone should be enough to convince anyone that it's a bad idea. Secret laws are antithetical to the American democratic tradition. If you disagree, I hope you'll be willing to allow me to draft a binding contract for you to sign before you've read it.

Washington Post technology columnist Rob Pegoraro, who's moderating the Google discussion, wrote in an article last September that one of ACTA's flaws is that it attempts to globalize the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) prohibition on circumventing technological protection measures (TPMs, or digital locks).

In a 2008 paper covering its concerns about ACTA, Google laid out some issues with the DMCA's application:

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) prevents a wide range of legitimate activity that has nothing to with counterfeiting (e.g., TPMs are the reason that you cannot: load a lawfully purchased DVD on to your iPod; play a legitimate DVD bought in the U.K. at full-price on your DVD at home in the U.S.; transfer songs lawfully purchased on iTunes to a different music service; operate a device like a DVD player on Linux, an open source program, even though there is no question of copying a single work of authorship). Indeed, the DMCA was used by original equipment manufacturers of printer toner cartridges and electric garage door openers to shut out cheaper substitutes.

If ACTA is more of the same, a broader set of stakeholders ought to be included in the treaty's formulation.

If you have questions about ACTA that you'd care to have raised at Google D.C.'s discussion next week, submit them through Google Moderator.

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