The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, is being negotiated behind closed doors, in secrecy, by the USA, the European Union, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, Canada, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and United Arab Emirates. Its scope is broad, but the most important aspect (for us) is the digital chapter, which has been leaked onto the web.
And it ain't good.
Three strikes policies are encouraged, but not a requirement. Takedown procedures are mandatory. Safe harbours for internet service providers are required, but badly defined. Internet filtering is not allowed.
ISP's are supposed to have safe harbours, but the current draft doesn't define it very well, as Ars notes. ISP's are only immune if after "adopting and reasonably implementing a policy to address the unauthorized storage or transmission of materials protected by copyright". An example is provided as a footnote: "providing for termination in appropriate circumstances of subscriptions and accounts in the service provider's system or network of repeat infringers". That's three strikes.
Another requirement for ISP immunity is the existence of a takedown process - you know, that backwards process where content must be pulled from the internet just because a rightsholder says so; the content will only be restored if the uploader files a counter-notice. Both requirements are already US law.
The worst part of the ACTA is most certainly that it imposes the - excuse my choice of words - idiotic DMCA upon the rest of the world (sorry my American friends, you guys really made the pooch buy soothing crème with that one). Under ACTA, "the unauthorized circumvention of an effective technological measure that controls access to a protected work, performance, or phonogram" would be prohibited.
The fact that the ACTA negotiations are being held behind closed doors is a really bad sign. With local European governments losing ever more control over their own nations to the European Union, I'm very, very afraid that the ACTA, or something similar, will simply be jammed down our throats - a big win for companies like Apple and Disney, as well as for organisations like the RIAA and MPAA.
If this nonsense gets ratified, we'll all become citizens of a police state. To enforce the kind of things the ACTA proposes, we'd need constant surveillance of all internet traffic, and of all internet users. Did you jailbreak your iPhone? Apple will send a "strike" to your ISP and mobile provider, et voilà, your iPhone has just been banned. Uploaded a home video of your baby daughter dancing to Fiona Apple? "Strike" by the RIAA, and you're off.
We'll live in a world where private organisations will police your every digital move. Welcome to the world the lady with the hammer sought to destroy in Apple's iconic commercial. The amount of irony dripping from this last paragraph should be obvious to anyone.