Yes, ACTA is pretty damn bad. Take the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, add some of that wonderful three strikes nonsense, throw in full internet traffic surveillance taken straight from China (isn't that an IP violation?), stir, let it cook for a while until it's boiling hot. Garnish with severed kitten heads and ground baby powder. That's pretty much ACTA in a nutshell.
The United States government, led by big content puppets Biden and Obama, have clearly had a major influence on ACTA. It would pretty much export the DMCA to countries adopting ACTA, making it illegal to hack the devices you bought, such as iPhones or game consoles. The DMCA is reviled, and for good reason. It turns ordinary, inventive, and clever individuals into criminals.
While ACTA would create a theoretical safe harbour for Internet Service Providers, this does come at a price. The safe harbour is conditioned on the ISP "adopting and reasonably implementing a policy to address the unauthorized storage or transmission of materials protected by copyright"; this is almost an exact copy of existing US law. While ACTA no longer specifically advocates three strikes laws, it now does promote internet disconnections and website blocking.
The second condition is the existence of a notice-and-takedown process. For instance, when YouTube receives a takedown notice from a rightsholder, it must take the content in question down immediately; he can only restore it once a counter-notice has been received from the uploader. After that, the rightsholder can go to court. This, of course, goes against the very core of our justice system - you know, that whole "innocent until proven otherwise" business.
Non-commercial infringement will be prohibited as well ("significant willful copyright or related rights infringements that have no direct or indirect motivation of financial gain"), which is probably an attempt to make file sharing illegal (which it is in the US, but not in many European countries). Computers and devices used to infringe can be confiscated and/or destroyed.
Whereas the RIAA/MPAA/BSA are trying to get US customs to search your devices when you enter the United States, this option is not part of ACTA - at least, not explicitly. ACTA does give customs the ability to act on their own initiative, without having to wait for rightsholders to complain.
ACTA also gives rightsholders the ability to get injuctions for infringement that hasn't even take place yet - so-called "imminent infringement". Yes, believe it or not, big content wants to treat you as a criminal even before you committed copyright infringement.
ACTA goes into some great detail regarding camcorder ripping, since it calls for this practice to become not a civil matter, but a criminal act. Since at least one delegation has asked for this section to be removed, it might not make it into the final agreement.
"Perhaps ACTA's most unfortunate provision is the imposition of 'secondary liability'," writes Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association, "This obscure provision of copyright law - generally disfavored by courts - holds that a business, such as a manufacturer or Internet provider, should be liable for a third party's copyright infringement."
So yeah, it's pretty bad.
Since it's impossible for me to talk about all countries that participate in the ACTA process, I'll focus on my own country. The Netherlands has a relatively sensible copyright law that allows going after "professional" infringers while at the same time not criminalising the entire population, since downloading of copyrighted content, even when uploaded illegally, is not illegal.
There are plans to change this; the government has been talking about a "dowload prohibition", which would be conditioned to big content coming up with suitable alternatives. However, this condition hasn't been defined in any way, making it hard to measure what "suitable" means.
Since our government has fallen a few months ago, we are working towards elections in June of this year. A lot of parties are including segments in their programmes on digital freedom and copyright, and at least one of them, D66, has entered into its programme that internet access is a "fundamental right", meaning that internet disconnections would not be possible. Since many (government) institutions and services rely on the internet, cutting off the internet is deemed to invasive a penalty. This party's programme also explicitly says "no" to the proposed download prohibition.
They might want to eventually abolish the monarchy (which goes against every fibre in my body) but their position on matters of digital freedom and copyright are enlightened. They will most likely get my vote.
Dutch lobby group Bits Of Freedom is currently undertaking a massive effort to make political parties aware of the issues we here on OSNews discuss so often, which, among other things, has resulted in D66 adopting the above, and there's a chance other parties will adopt similar provisions. This is good news for us Dutch people, but sadly, it won't help people in other countries.
Do you like those Der Untergang (Downfall) parodies with Hitler in his bunker at the end of World War II? Well, enjoy them while you can: the production company behind the film is taking them down from YouTube, which seems pretty perplexing since the film's director, Oliver Hirschbiegel, is a fan.
"Someone sends me the links every time there's a new one," says the director, "I think I've seen about 145 of them! Of course, I have to put the sound down when I watch. Many times the lines are so funny, I laugh out loud, and I’m laughing about the scene that I staged myself! You couldn't get a better compliment as a director."
"The point of the film was to kick these terrible people off the throne that made them demons, making them real and their actions into reality," he ads, "I think it's only fair if now it's taken as part of our history, and used for whatever purposes people like."
That, my friends, is the difference between an artist and a content provider. Telling, isn't it?