The Vital Next Step

It is not an easy question to answer, but the first point to make is: don't panic. Despite the EU member votes this week, they will count for nothing should ACTA be rejected by the European Parliament when it votes in June. Secondly ACTA is constantly evolving and has already cut mandatory Internet disconnection for convicted copyright violators from an early draft, so nothing is carved in stone.



Speaking more broadly the key is open, organised, publicised debate. The rights holders have their arguments and proposed legislation in place. Their opponents need to be in a similar position. The SOPA and PIPA blackouts saw a united front from protesters for the first time and a global body needs to be formed that includes the likes of Wikipedia, Google, Mozilla, Microsoft and many more who have expressed their concerns. The goal isn't to have a 'winner', or alienate people (as with the arguably counter productive Anonymous strikes in Poland have done), but to create an equal forum.

There is additional good news. Behind SOPA, PIPA and ACTA is something with far more promise: the 'Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act' introduced to US Congress in December 2011. OPEN provides stronger rights for holders to claim their specific intellectual property, but only takes down sites that deliberately promote copyright violation. It would also be overseen by the International Trade Commission. In contrast to ACTA, the full text of OPEN was immediately released for public viewing and comments.

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Ultimately what cannot be denied is change is coming. SOPA and PIPA in the US, the Digital Economy Act in the UK, the (ultimately rejected) Three Strikes Law in France rush in like the tide. The blocking of Newzbin and closure of Megaupload come because piracy is rampant. How we got to this stage no longer matters, the cogs are in motion. Instead what is crucial is new powers are regulated and come in exchange for new business models. Big Brother must be housebroken.

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