Last November, I suggested that ACTA, the not-so-secret-anymore Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that governments have been negotiating for more than a year, could be "the worst thing for the internet - ever."

And with a 331-294 approval in the EU Parliament, it's one step closer to reality.

The agreement, which is designed in part to address intellectual property rights, and piracy, in the digital age, has created significant controversy since the public became aware of its existence.

A big reason for that is the things ACTA would allow or require governments to do in enforcing the intellectual property rights of private individuals and companies. One of the most controversial features of ACTA, as originally proposed, was a requirement that ISPs in signatory countries implement a three-strikes rule. Get caught downloading Hurt Locker, or worse? You might eventually lose your internet.

But there's an even bigger reason ACTA has been met with such skepticism, and even anger: it was conceived in secret and has, for the most part, been written in the most opaque manner possible. As I pointed out last year, "there's something quite wrong about an international trade agreement written in secret under the guise of dealing with 'anti-counterfeiting' that is really just a massive trojan horse in a push for transnational regulation of the internet."

As ITworld notes, the final language of the agreement, which was just published last week, has been watered down a bit. And apparently it won't really impact the EU because it isn't any more stringent than the legislation already in place.

But given that members of the EU Parliament have already acknowledged that ACTA "will not solve the complex and multi-dimensional problem of counterfeiting", one has to wonder what benefits it brings. Some are already observing, for instance, that the agreement may have the (unintended?) consequence of creating "significant barriers to international trade, especially in generic medicines."

But the intended and unintended consequences aren't the real worry. The real problem is that, recognizing ACTA isn't going to help solve any of the problems it's supposed to, it gets billed as a "step in the right direction." Translation: this is only the beginning.

Photo credit: girolame via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 25 November, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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