08 September 2010

Why ACTA is Not a Victimless Treaty

The best thing I have read about the current brouhaha surrounding Craiglist's shutdown of its “Adult Services” section is danah boyd's post "How Censoring Craigslist Helps Pimps, Child Traffickers, and Other Abusive Scumbags". If you're at all interested in the issue, I strongly recommend it.

One paragraph struck me in particular:

During the height of the moral panic over sexual predators on MySpace, I had the fortune of spending a lot of time with a few FBI folks and talking to a whole lot of local law enforcement. I learned a scary reality about criminal activity online. Folks in law enforcement know about a lot more criminal activity than they have the time to pursue. Sure, they focus on the Big players, going after the massive collectors of child pornography who are most likely to be sex offenders than spending time on the small-time abusers. But it was the medium-time criminals that gnawed at them. They were desperate for more resources so that they could train more law enforcers, pursue more cases, and help more victims. The Internet had made it a lot easier for them to find criminals, but that didn’t make their jobs any easier because they were now aware of how many more victims they were unable to help. Most law enforcement in this area are really there because they want to help people and it kills them when they can’t help everyone.

Now, think about what this is saying: that the FBI could help many more victims of these appalling crimes, but can't, simply because they don't have the resources to do so. Now, consider the effects of ACTA, which will add a whole new set of responsibilities that the FBI and others will be required to shoulder.

To be sure, there may be some increase in funding, but the way these things usually work is that politicians grandstand about all the amazing laws/treaties they have pushed through, but omit to mention that they don't fully fund them (because that would mean tax rises or cuts elsewhere).

That leaves the FBI and others being stretched even more thinly, forced to pursue counterfeits of varying seriousness. But worst of all, if the current ACTA text is any indication, they will be forced to spend time trying to stop file sharing, an impossible and hence pointless task.

Worst of all, because all that time could have been used to help victims of all those other, rather more serious crimes like child pornography, which the FBI says it knows about, but can't deal with. In the face of that continuing and unnecessary suffering, tell me again why ACTA is so important?

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Unknown said...


That's a worryingly good point. Leave FBI to do their own bloody job and waste your own damn time dragging 'copyright offenders' through civil courts if you're that anal about copyright infringement.

Glyn Moody said...

@topperfalkon: indeed. We need to get people to understand that ACTA is not a victimless treaty...

PV said...

Even Righthaven isn't that bad. They'll just take you to court - they won't send the FBI after you.
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Glyn Moody said...

@PV: indeed, it will be Obama who does that: