Transfer Pricing Associates

Anti-Piracy Acts: Inane Acronyms or Useful Policy?

post Tuesday May 8, 2012


A few months back you couldn’t get on the internet without hearing some mention of SOPA and PIPA.  So, whatever materialized for these infamous acronyms?  Both Acts, aimed at preventing online piracy, ultimately failed, but is there hope for other anti-piracy policies?     

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (PROTECT IP Act) are essentially the same piece of policy, except that SOPA originated in the U.S. House of Representatives and PIPA originated in the Senate.  One other difference is that SOPA included a very controversial article that would force search engines like Google to remove “foreign infringing sites” from their search results (you can remember the blackout banner messages about the Acts posted on sites like Google and Wikipedia fighting this provision).  Tech companies and experts warned that implementing this provision could threaten the underlying infrastructure of the Internet.  After much public outcry and backlash from websites, SOPA and PIPA were not able to make it through Congress and eventually lost traction.

A second attempt at anti-piracy legislation was the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act.  This Act aimed to enforce intellectual property rights on the Internet without compromising the infrastructure or Internet.  The bill would require online payment processors like PayPal and online advertisers to stop doing business with websites that promote piracy.  The thinking was that without ad revenues or payment processing kickbacks, these websites would be unable to turn a profit and eventually fizzle out.  Unfortunately, the only fizzling out happening was that of the OPEN Act after Congress put a hold on the voting process for it.

After the failures of SOPA, PIPA, and OPEN, international policymakers took the hint and created a piece of anti-piracy policy outside the United States Congress.  The Anti-Counterfeit Treaty (ACTA) is a multinational treaty that aims to establish international standards for IPR (intellectual property rights) enforcement and to establish an international legal framework to target intellectual property infringement on the internet.  The ACTA would also create a new governing body to control counterfeit merchandise, generic medicines, and copyright infringement on the internet. 

So far, 22 European countries (including the UK), the United States, Japan, and Canada have all signed the ACTA, though none have ratified the treaty.  Six of these 22 EU countries have recently halted their ratification procedures to await the final opinion of the European Court of Justice and the European Parliament before resuming ratification.  Many of these countries have signed but not ratified the document because the same public uproar has plagued the ACTA.

Unless the ACTA gains more public backing, it is destined to be lumped in to the failed policy pile.  No anti-piracy has yet been able to find the right balance between properly enforcing intellectual property protection on the Internet, protecting free speech, and allowing the Internet to function.

[Source: Wealth of Ideas]

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

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