In the new millennium, as we face rogue states, new and resurgent hostile superpowers, and trans-national terrorism, maintaining America's security is as important as ever. An crucial element of that security is informational, as the government struggles to protect the secrecy of the identify of informants in Pakistan, means and methods in Afghanistan, and military movements in Iraq.
All of that pales, however, next to making sure that no one knows how we bargaining to defend the integrity of Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
See, America has been negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. What's going to be in it? It's not clear, because the negotiating parties are keeping it secret. However, there are indications based on a leaked document retrieved from Canada that ACTA will require signatories to engage in some troublesome anti-piracy enforcement actions — possibly including requiring border guards to search media for illegal content:
The deal would create a international regulator that could turn border guards and other public security personnel into copyright police. The security officials would be charged with checking laptops, iPods and even cellular phones for content that “infringes” on copyright laws, such as ripped CDs and movies.
The guards would also be responsible for determining what is infringing content and what is not.
The agreement proposes any content that may have been copied from a DVD or digital video recorder would be open for scrutiny by officials – even if the content was copied legally.
The leaked ACTA document states officials should be given the “authority to take action against infringers (i.e., authority to act without complaint by rights holders).” Anyone found with infringing content in their possession would be open to a fine. They may also have their device confiscated or destroyed, according to the four-page document.
If you think it's a pain in the ass to clear customs now, wait until you have to wait for guys who couldn't get hired by TSA to scroll through your 4,000-song playlist on your iPod. "Arrest him. I don't believe for a second that anyone would actually buy a J.Lo album."
Anyway, since our government is contemplating committing our nation to this scheme, wouldn't it would be nice to know what the terms are, so that we can communicate our concerns to our elected representatives?
That's just the way terrorists think.
In fact, the Obama administration has now continued the Bush Administration policy of keeping the content of ACTA and the negotiations secret. Why? Believe it or not, the administration is claiming that the information must be withheld to protect national security.
But now, like Bush before him, Obama is playing the national security card to hide details of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement being negotiated across the globe.
The White House this week declared (.pdf) the text of the proposed treaty a "properly classified" national security secret, in rejecting a Freedom of Information Act request by Knowledge Ecology International.
Because, you know, if American citizens can find out the terms of a treaty their elected officials are negotiating to prevent them from burning a Ludacris mix CD, then the terrorists have won.
Wait, maybe I am not being fair. Maybe the negotiations of ACTA are somehow intertwined with crucial, secret military and anti-terrorism agreements — some sort of quid pro quo. Maybe the means and methods contemplated by the treaty involve new top-secret technology. Maybe there is some legitimate reason that the terms of the treaty can only be shared with the highest officials with the most extensive security clearance.
Well, the highest officials, plus every paid industry hack with a lobbyist license.
Remember yesterday's post about how the Obama administration had refused to release the details of a secret copyright treaty because doing so would compromise "national security?" Well, it turns out that there are plenty of people who are cleared to be privy to this "sensitive" document — strangely, they all seem to work for giant copyright companies!
It's an old story. This has nothing to do with national security. It has everything to do with government officials not wanting you to know that they are the cringing butt-boys of the entertainment industry, thanks largely to generous contributions.
Fortunately, just as warhead always beats bunker eventually, the internet always beats informational security. Wikileaks has what purports to be the text of the treaty, along with associated useful information. What does it show? Well . . .
It's some pretty crazy reading — among other things, ACTA will outlaw P2P (even when used to share works that are legally available, like my books), and crack down on things like region-free DVD players.
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