In the midst of last week’s protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate version, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), I suggested that “[w]e’re fighting an uphill battle” against the powerful forces that want to censor the internet in the name of anti-piracy. Since then, many pundits and bloggers have been striking a triumphalist note now that both SOPA and PIPA appear to be dead in the water. But the best rule of thumb when you think you’ve beaten those who would erase our civil liberties is to reject complacency and assume that you haven’t. When they look like they’ve lost they’re usually just regrouping. The recent MegaUpload bust should prove that.
But if you’re still not convinced, you probably haven’t heard of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The U.S. Trade Representative’s office declares ACTA “the highest-standard plurilateral agreement ever achieved concerning the enforcement of intellectual property rights.” A 2008 report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation makes clear that ACTA would accomplish at an international level what SOPA/PIPA were supposed to accomplish here in America. We, along with eight other nations, signed ACTA on October 1, 2011.