Feeds

Lizard People drop ACTA draft from Black Helicopter

A giant scaly footprint in the face of humanity?

Top three mobile application threats

Emerging briefly from their underground volcano lair, the shadowy A.C.T.A. organisation has released their latest list of demands. It's another relentless march towards global New World Order governance.

Actually, that's how a few bloggers and even professional hacks have portrayed it. But what's wrong with this picture?

Warning: Black helicopters

There's no disagreement about what ACTA covers: it's a long-running round of international negotiations designed to draw up a wish-list of legislation on behalf of intellectual property businesses. ACTA ostensibly covers counterfeiting, and other industrial-scale piracy. Businesses meet in private to draw up laundry lists all the time. But from leaks we know that the wish-list seeks to extend the definition of counterfeiting, at least in some areas, to civil infringement.

But the Lizard paranoia stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the types of treaties. Most of the World Trade Organisation's GATT agreements on tariffs are multilateral, and effectively compulsory. But ACTA is plurilateral, and voluntary.

With a plurilateral agreement, the laundry list is then presented to national governments. At this stage, national legislators throw it open for democratic debate, which is where "civil society" groups get involved. And here, the problems begin.

Copyright reflects national culture, and these are very different from country to country. For example, the French approach to copyright is very different to that of the United States'. So plastering a global set of practice on top of national law isn't easy. So Canada, for example, still doesn't recognise the WIPO Treaty drawn up in 1996. The EU only took 13 years to get round to it, doing so last December. You can see how it's very good news for international bureaucrats collecting Air Miles.

Governments, on the other hand, can take it or leave it - and most leave it.

There's another wrinkle to consider.

Whatever may eventually be in ACTA that deals with civil copyright infringement is extremely unlikely to even get as far as discussion stage in the UK. Why? Because policy makers have spent four years chewing over the Digital Economy Act, are heartily sick of it, and don't want to throw it all out and start again.

Nor, now, will the Republic of Ireland want to hear much about it, either. In a remarkably commonsense ruling in its High Court on Friday, Ireland rejected the idea of copyright infringement as a criminal offence, one requiring the mechanics of state intervention.

So ACTA, then, is a non-binding voluntary agreement that deals with fake jeans and fertilisers. It contains passages of wishful thinking that unlikely to get anywhere. Why have bloggers got their panties in a bunch?

A photograph of the secretive A.C.T.A. talks, sent to us by a blogger

Politics: You've got to be in it, to win it

Because having rejected politics, people want to be frightened out of their wits - rather like children.

"[ACTA] will certainly be wielded like a weapon on the rest of the world in the future," writes Nate 'Neutrality' Anderson at Ars Technica. Another blogger predicts that, "If a trade agreement is accepted by the world then it will trump any local laws" (fail) and "It is not surprising then that the treaty has had to remain secret as the only chance the world has of stopping it is before it is signed" (fail again).

I could have picked out hundreds of examples - but they all have something in common: a rejection of the idea that politicking can change people's minds. Therefore the world must be run by powerful men in secret lairs, exchanging money on yachts. It's a child-like view of th world.

Behind the inevitable mass outbreak of bedwetting that now accompanies all Intellectual Property stories is the reason I suggested here.

You can view the current copyright battles as a business/consumer issue - businesses need to reform their supply chains, consumers want to pay for services that are currently "illegal" (sic). This view requires quite a different mindset - one in which there are no "baddies".

Or, you can instead choose to dramatise it, and yourself, by escalating it into a "human rights" issue, an eternal struggle against The Man. Such a battle needs constant fuel to throw on the fires of injustice. It also requires you to see the individual (aka, each of us) as powerless, always at the mercy of dark, mysterious forces meeting in secret, for example on yachts, that. A.C.T.A. provides a suitably S.M.E.R.S.H.-like candidate for this viewpoint.

The problem with this sub-adolescent view of the world, is that in the end, it really does leave you powerless. Campaigners in the UK failed to deploy the strongest arguments against criminalising casual copyright infringement, and as a result we can thank them for some very silly, illiberal (and probably unworkable) web-blocking provisions.

For the latest bulletin from your Lizard Overlords - see this PDF. Just remember it's a laundry list. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
US Supreme Court supremo rakes Aereo lawman in oral arguments
Antenna-array content streamers: 'Ruling against us could dissipate the cloud'
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
prev story

Whitepapers

Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.