Everyone in USA: Comment against ACTA today!

Tuesday 15 February 2011 by Bradley M. Kuhn

In the USA, the deadline for comments on ACTA is today (Tuesday 15 February 2011) at 17:00 US/Eastern. It's absolutely imperative that every USA citizen submit a comment on this. The Free Software Foundation has details on how to do so.

ACTA is a dangerous international agreement that would establish additional criminal penalties, promulgate DMCA/EUCD-like legislation around the world, and otherwise extend copyright law into places it should not go. Copyright law is already much stronger than anyone needs.

On a meta-point, it's extremely important that USA citizens participate in comment processes like this. The reason that things like ACTA can happen in the USA is because most of the citizens don't pay attention. By way of hyperbolic fantasy, imagine if every citizen of the USA wrote a letter today to Mr. McCoy about ACTA. It'd be a news story on all the major news networks tonight, and would probably be in the headlines in print/online news stories tomorrow. Our whole country would suddenly be debating whether or not we should have criminal penalties for copying TV shows, and whether breaking a DVD's DRM should be illegal.

Obviously, that fantasy won't happen, but getting from where we are to that wonderful fantasy is actually linear; each person who writes to Mr. McCoy today makes a difference! Please take 15 minutes out of your day today and do so. It's the least you can do on this issue.

The Free Software Foundation has a sample letter you can use if you don't have time to write your own. I wrote my own, giving some of my unique perspective, which I include below.

The automated system on regulations.gov assigned this comment below the tracking number of 80bef9a1 (cool, it's in hex! :)

Stanford K. McCoy
Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Intellectual Property and Innovation
Office of the United States Trade Representative
600 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20006

Re: ACTA Public Comments (Docket no. USTR-2010-0014)

Dear Mr. McCoy:

I am a USA citizen writing to urge that the USA not sign ACTA. Copyright law already reaches too far. ACTA would extend problematic, overly-broad copyright rules around the world and would increase the already inappropriate criminal penalties for copyright infringement here in the USA.

Both individually and as an agent of my employer, I am regularly involved in copyright enforcement efforts to defend the Free Software license called the GNU General Public License (GPL). I therefore think my perspective can be uniquely contrasted with other copyright holders who support ACTA.

Specifically, when engaging in copyright enforcement for the GPL, we treat it as purely a civil issue, not a criminal one. We have been successful in defending the rights of software authors in this regard without the need for criminal penalties for the rampant copyright infringement that we often encounter.

I realize that many powerful corporate copyright holders wish to see criminal penalties for copyright infringement expanded. As someone who has worked in the area of copyright enforcement regularly for 12 years, I see absolutely no reason that any copyright infringement of any kind ever should be considered a criminal matter. Copyright holders who believe their rights have been infringed have the full power of civil law to defend their rights. Using the power of government to impose criminal penalties for copyright infringement is an inappropriate use of government to interfere in civil disputes between its citizens.

Finally, ACTA would introduce new barriers for those of us trying to change our copyright law here in the USA. The USA should neither impose its desired copyright regime on other countries, nor should the USA bind itself in international agreements on an issue where its citizens are in great disagreement about correct policy.

Thank you for considering my opinion, and please do not allow the USA to sign ACTA.

Bradley M. Kuhn

Posted on Tuesday 15 February 2011 at 13:52 by Bradley M. Kuhn.

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Bradley M. Kuhn <bkuhn@ebb.org>