22 November 2010

Why ACTA is a Doomed

There is a great new paper out with the title "ACTA as a New Kind of International IP Law-Making":

The ACTA negotiations are important not only for the potential impact of the treaty itself, but for what they can teach us about the dynamics of intellectual property law-making and the structure of the IP treaty framework. This paper draws two broad lessons from the progress of the ACTA to date which, while not entirely new, can be understood in a new light by looking at the detailed development of the ACTA text: (1) that the global IP 'ratchet' is not inexorable; and (2) that the international IP treaty framework is very poorly adapted to developing exceptions. The relevance of these lessons for negotiators, scholars and advocates is also discussed.

It's very thorough, and well-worth reading all the way through. But I'd like to single out the following section as particularly worthy of attention:

there is the question of public perceptions as to the value and fairness of the agreement. A perception that it is fair as between stakeholders is important to IP law, which it is not readily ̳self-enforcing.‘ By this I mean that IP law requires people to self-consciously refrain from behaviours that are common, easy, and enjoyable: infringement is so easy to do and observing IP rights, particularly copyright, involves, particularly these days, some self-denial. IP law therefore needs support from the public in order to be effective, and in order to receive any such support IP law needs to address the needs of all stakeholders. 135 Treaties that strengthen enforcement without addressing the needs of users look unfair and will bring IP law further into disrepute.

I think this is a profound point. As we know, copyright infringement is taking place on a massive scale, especially among younger members of society. It's clear that this is largely because they do not perceive present copyright law as either reasonable or fair, and so they simply ignore it.

ACTA will make copyright law less fair and even more unreasonable. The inevitable consequence will be that people will respect its laws even less, and feel even more justified in doing so. And so we have a paradox: the more that ACTA is put into practice, the more it will weaken the edifice it was supposed to buttress. (Via @StopActaNow @FelixTreguer.)

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.


Felix Pleșoianu said...

In other words, the more you squeeze your fist, the more sand escapes through your fingers? Who would have thought. :)

Unfortunately, if ACTA does pass, that means we'll have governments everywhere engaged in a guerilla war with their own citizens. A crazy state of affairs if you ask me.

Glyn Moody said...

@Felix: yes, it's a pity that governments can't see this.