The statement of this interest group discusses the concerns the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA) raises. These include the lack of transparency of its content, the limited information given to the public, the fact that this is an executive agreement and the implications this will have in practice in the Unites States political context. Public Knowledge is also uneasy with the terminology used in the ACTA – the use of “piracy” and “counterfeit” without concrete definitions of what these words would encompass.
The opinion of Public Knowledge adds an important perspective to my argument because it criticizes the format and the ramifications of ACTA implementation on a domestic level. The interest group raises the fact that the ACTA is an executive agreement and as such does not require the “signatories to be accountable to the public” since it circumvents Congress. If one links this information to the claim that the ACTA is supported predominantly by copyright industries then it leads me to believe that the sole purpose of this accord is to give the companies such as the RIAA and MPAA greater powers to prosecute copyright infringement internationally at their own discretion. Eliminating accountability also signifies that the United States Trade Representative (USTR) does not want to directly involve the U.S. in multinational infringement disputes but only seeks to facilitate the domestic copyright industry to defend its rights in the international arena. The limitation of the Public Knowledge opinion is that it doesn’t consider the newest Fact Sheet that was released by the USTR in August 2008. Even though the fact sheet does not give a substantial amount of concrete information, it does formally address some of Public Knowledge’s questions.
The EFF submitted this letter in response to the request for public comments regarding the ACTA. The letter focuses on the legitimacy of the ACTA itself. The EFF argues that the lack of transparency surrounding the creation and negotiations of the ACTA is highly suspicious. It questions who the true supporters of the ACTA are (authors vs. companies) and the genuine motives of the agreement. The EFF then analyses the available information regarding the ACTA and makes recommendations. Thee recommendations include respecting each country’s own legal regime and not imposing secondary liability, making sure that any prosecutions for breaking the rules of the ACTA go through judicial review, and creating a precise and narrow definition for “commercial-use.”
This document also gives a unique perspective for my research paper, because it questions the general purpose of the ACTA as well as the process through which it is being negotiated. It is the only document so far that discusses the implications for Fair Use in this new multinational agreement. The letter also talks predominantly about the rights of users and argues that the United State should take extreme care to ensure that civil rights will be preserved. The EFF discusses another interesting aspect: prosecution of individuals who committed piracy for personal uses compared to those who truly operated significant commercial networks and gained profit from infringement. In order for the ACTA to be an effective agreement, it should set realistic rules and standards that are enforceable, instead of labeling every type of copyright infringement as prosecutable. This means that the ACTA should concern only large-scale profit-seeking infringers since they have committed greater harm then someone who has downloaded a song to his/her personal computer. For example, the ACTA should affect online music and movie torrents as well as street vendors – these are the people who use piracy for profit and not just for personal pleasure.
This article takes a much more anthropological perspective and focuses on the user side of illegal music download sites in Ukraine. Haigh discusses the differences in the music and movie market in Ukraine compared to that of the West. She also talks about the financial limitations of Ukrainians and the limited use of the Internet I that country. She draws parallels between modern norms of illegal fire sharing the heritage of the Soviet Union and its copyright regime.
This article supplies a crucial perspective for my argument – the motivations of populations to download illegally from the Internet and infringe copyright. The financial situation of Ukrainians is particularly important because it is clear that they cannot afford legal copies of the pirated material. The ACTA and other multinational authorities should be cognizant and offer alternatives to illegal sites in order to give incentives for the users to switch to legitimate materials. This also means that the legal sources should be affordable for the native population. The article also touches on the perception and attitude of Ukrainians toward the western legal copyright framework. This links back to the sentiments of the natives evoked by their life within the Soviet Union. Ukraine is a proud nation and in its history it has been constantly conquered and re-conquered by foreign powers, which imposed their own rule on the population. Ukrainians feel that when the WTO and the US are allegedly trying to protect their intellectual property rights, in effect they are acting just like the USSR and attempting to coerce Ukraine to follow western models even when they are not suited for the needs of the country. This attitude is echoed throughout most other eastern European former Soviet satellites and republics.
This blog entry contains much of the same information as the other article on Russia and its music download website www.allofmp3.com. It discusses how the website was symbolically closed and the RIAA dropped it suit against the site for that reason. This allowed the United States and Russia to sign bilateral accords since technically Russia had achieved one of the requirements for strengthening its ties with the West. At the same time, a couple other similar illegal music download online stores continued to operate and were completely their existence was completely ignored by the RIAA and the bilateral negotiations.
The blog entry does contain one piece of crucial information – the author comments on how he enjoyed his customer experience using allofmp3.com. This raises an issue that is important in my argument: the view of those who use illegal sites to download music. The blog author’s opinion hints to the fact there is no legal website of the same scope and quality as allofmp3.com. Therefore, we can’t expect eastern Europeans to abstain from illegal downloading if the illegal choice is more accessible than the legal one. Also, if the international community insists on infringing countries to crack down on illegal websites and materials, the multinational group should also offer an alternative to infringing sites. Perhaps, the RIAA could have negotiated a deal where it insured that allofmp3.com does pay the necessary licensing fees and becomes legitimate in the eyes of the western countries. It is absurd that the RIAA expects Russians to stop downloading music illegally if these listeners have no legal way to obtain music online.
The RIAA submitted this letter in response to public requests for comment on the ACTA. The RIAA provides a detailed prescription of what it needs in order to ensure that its intellectual property rights are not infringed anywhere in the world. This includes recommendations for the definition of “piracy,” and which infringement cases should be prosecuted. It also sets out specific requirements for law enforcement and monitoring officials to follow. The RIAA expresses its strong supports for the dialogue the ACTA has provoked and expresses its wish that all of its arguments be taken into account when formulating its final version.
The RIAA provides by far the clearest and most non-negotiable opinion. It explicitly states that all acts of piracy, commercial or non-commercial, should be prosecuted and the strictest laws should be applied. It seems that the RIAA has already created its own legal framework that advances the industry’s ambitions and protects its interests efficiently. The Association is merely looking for a conduit of its legal system and does not intend to negotiate with any party. It also disregards the motives of user worldwide to seek and use illegal materials online. The RIAA does directly address the links between piracy and organized crime, which shows that it recognizes some of the ramifications of copyright infringement that affect areas completely exterior to music. While the Association’s stance should not be ignored, its positions should be considered alongside economic and empirical evidence (like the one provided by the IIPA). Additionally, the confidence and severity of the RIAA’s opinion should caution all countries that the U.S. organization is a powerful player and can include the international arena in its jurisdiction if its demands are completely met by any multinational agreement.
This article discusses the closing of www.allofmp3.com - a major Russian music download website, which was considered a significant copyright infringer by western countries. Users could buy songs from the website and the owners claimed that they paid royalties and license fees for the songs and therefore the owners argue that the site was legitimate in accordance with the law of the Russia Federation. Western music companies, however, assert that they do not receive any of these fees. This issue is important for a political reason: the presidents of Russia and the U.S. were meeting at the same time and the article speculates that Russia was trying to improve its relations with the West.
This source is important for my research because it shows the link between piracy and international politics. Perhaps a way of dealing with countries where piracy is rampant is to tie their success enforcing intellectual property rights to the amicability of their relations with the West. The outcome of this scheme will depend on the country’s size and particular international standing and needs. As this article shows, the closing of www.allofmp3.com was merely a symbolic gesture since a nearly identical site opened up soon after but at a different address. It is also evident that there are domestic inconsistencies when it comes to applying copyright and license laws. For example, even though allofmp3 claims to have paid the necessary licensing fees, the Russian Multimedia and Internet Society says that it has not received these payments for months. This hints that piracy is not just a copyright and intellectual property issue, but that it has links to more lucrative domestic crime operations. Because of the vague wording of the ACTA, it is not clear how this agreement will affect similar situations.
This article talks about Serbia’a surprising progress in combating piracy. The Serbian authorities have seized “280,000 illegal copies of music, films, games and software” from the domestic market. The article points out that this raid was most likely because Serbia wants to join the E.U and combating piracy is one of the criteria for closer relations between the European Union and Serbia.
This source is closely tied to the article on Russia’s music download website. The Serbian case, however, has a more optimistic outcome. While the raid will certainly not stop piracy, it is an important step forward that shows the population that the Serbian authorities are serious about strengthening their relations with the E.U. and are therefore willing to carry out seizures of illegal materials. The article also explicitly brings up the ties between piracy and organized crime. Knowing the political and social climate of Eastern Europe, I can confidently claim that the same connection exists in Russia and is evident in the symbolic closure of allofmp3.com. When the exact terms of the ACTA are negotiated, it is important to take into consideration the domestic implications of combating intellectual property infringement. Enforcement of copyright laws can be dangerous since it interferes with powerful underground crime networks whose bosses maintain close connections to corrupt officials within Eastern European police authorities. Finally, the limitation of this article is that it does not investigate the reaction of the population and whether the seizure was successful in the long term, i.e. did the vendors stop selling illegal materials for good or did they continue after a few days.