Just when you thought the future of the Internet was safe, along comes yet another worrying problem.
The whole issue of net neutrality & possible threats to the future of the Internet as it is now, seemed to be reducing. From what i could see anyway. I could well have been wrong though. You just can't believe anything you read on the Internet these days, can you? ;)
Now though, comes an even bigger threat.
The Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is being written & some of the proposals contained in the USA chapter of the agreement, would change the way the Internet operates in a very radical way. Although these are proposals from the USA, they would still end up affecting us all, wherever we are.
Thankfully, some of these highly secret proposals have been leaked. Probably by somebody who can see the writing on the wall. Apparently, only 42 people were given access to these documents. That shows you how secret these whole negotiations are. It also shows how worried one of these people is about the proposals. This must be a high ranking person who leaked this, after all there are only 42 of them.
Anyway, what are the proposals?
Well, the proposals, which were heavily influenced by the U.S entertainment industry, call for Internet providers (ISPs) to basically police the Internet for copyright infringements. They are proposing a "three strikes & you're out" rule. Whereby, anyone accused of infringing copyright, in any way, would have their Internet connection terminated. And if an ISP terminates your Internet connection, that affects the whole house!
Note the word "accused. This does not mean convicted, it just means being accused & anyone involved in video sharing websites like YouTube can probably think of occasions when people have been wrongly accused of infringing copyright in some way.
This obviously sets a very dangerous precedent. Whatever happened to being innocent until proven guilty?
Now, there are similar "three strikes" policies already in place, or at least being discussed, in many countries. But, none of them are as draconian as these proposals.
But, bad as all this sounds. It is the other implications of this "agreement" that are, possibly, even more worrying. To me at least.
An ISP would have to ensure that anything uploaded to any Internet site complies fully with copyright law & does not infringe anything. They would be obliged to do this.
Now, obviously, no ISP can ever guarantee this. And even if they could, it would be very expensive & would price most people out of the market.
So, ultimately, they would have to stop people uploading files to the Internet. That means that sites like YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Flikr etc etc would cease to exist.
Worrying isn't it?
Now, like most sensible people. I realise that copyright infringement is an important issue & needs to be addressed. But, this is a great example of a sledgehammer being used to crack a nut.
Not only that. But, i fear this is all being done to try & protect the interests of the entertainment industry. The same entertainment industry that is already trying to sue various Internet sites for copyright infringement & threatening to put them out of business.
What they seem to want the Internet to be is one huge TV network. One that they can control, as they have previouly controlled the TV & movie industry.
The entertainment industry generally has been very slow to wake up to the huge potential of the Internet. We have seen how long it has taken the music business to realise what's going on & now the movie business is gradually being awoken from its slumber.
They have been left behind & are not happy about it. Other people have realised the huge potential & have already exploited it.
Why should they all be made to stop because of the lack of awareness & the smug attitude of the so called entertainment industry?
What these people need to realise, as many others have already done. Is that the Internet provides an enormous money making opportunity for them. They need to embrace it, not try to change it.
Just think of all of that great, fresh, new talent that has already been discovered because of the Internet & file sharing websites. If these people are in future unable to upload their content to the Internet. Where will the stars of the future come from?
The Internet will not go away. The genie is now out of the bottle & cannot be put back.
Yes, some things may need to change. But, let's do it sensibly.
So, what can be done about this?
Firstly, spread the word about these proposals. The more people that know what is being planned, the better chance there is of it being stopped, or at least watered down.
Get involved. Your Internet needs you.
This is not the whole story. there is more to it than what i have written here.
Read more here: