This weekend there will be street protests in Europe against ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. I want to put on record ESET North America’s opposition to ratification of this agreement while applauding the actions of countries such as Poland, Slovakia, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Germany in withholding or delaying ratification. I would encourage anyone who shares this view to make their voice heard.
But why is it that ESET, a company built on the licensing of intellectual property, a company that fights running battles with counterfeiters, is opposed to ACTA and the closely related TPP or Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Three months ago I posted an open letter to congress on this blog in which I expressed ESET’s opposition to a number of provisions in a pair of bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT-IPA or PIPA). I thought it was important for people to know that ESET, whose software is used by more than 100 million people in over 180 countries, had serious reservations about legislation that threatened to undermine the reliability and security of the Internet in the name of preventing piracy.
As a growing number of high-tech companies and concerned individuals spoke out against SOPA, legislators backed down. After a massive day of action in which 75,000 websites participated and 162 million people viewed the Wikipedia protest page, the chief sponsor of SOPA pulled the bill and a Senate vote on PIPA was postponed. However, the same interests who backed SOPA and PIPA have heeded neither public opinion nor the concerns of many hi-tech companies; they are still seeking to use international trade agreements as a “backdoor” to impose SOPA-style laws, not just on America, but on the rest of the world.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and the intellectual property protection provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are complex documents* that were written without legislative oversight. Now that ACTA is receiving greater public scrutiny it is increasingly clear that much of its language has been crafted to meet the business interests of the same firms and trade groups that backed SOPA. As a result, countries that agree to ratify ACTA could, at the same time, weaken legal safeguards that currently exist to protect innovation, competition, and even personal privacy. For this reason, ESET is opposed to ratification of ACTA. If you agree, I urge you to act now and make your voice heard.
* For further information check out the Wikipedia entry on ACTA and the one-page briefing documents published by the European Digital Rights organization about the impact of ACTA on innovation, competition, and fundamental rights.