The official draft text of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was recently released.

All I can say is wow.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation did some preliminary analysis of ACTA. What it comes down to is that ACTA is about to require that signatory countries impose liabilities on ISPs for their users’ behaviors. That means ISPs need to be enforcers/police/nannys for their users. And US ISPs will lose any protections they currently enjoy from the DMCA.

If you use the Internet to share copyrighted information, YOUR ISP could face penalties. Do you think ISPs will accept this? You might expect ISPs to be up in arms about ACTA, but instead they look like they might accept ACTA openly. By all counts ISPs were lucky the FCC lost the case against Comcast. Otherwise ISPs would have no way to be an enforcer! Just kidding.

With vertical ‘content to provider’ consolidation, the big ISPs have a vested interest in becoming an enforcer. Remember, they own some of the copyrighted data being “illegally” shared on their networks. My bet is that the big ISPs are going to start throwing users to the lions as fast as they can.

I can also see that the US government is troubled by copyright infringement on the net. They HATE p2p networks. But thanks to provisions they worked out in the early 90′s for promoting the growth of the Internet, they can’t directly legislate for ISPs to become copyright enforcers. It’s easier to sign onto a treaty…

ACTA is going to seriously challenge US law, possibly overturning rulings by the US Supreme Court.

Maybe “wow” is an understatement.

On a somewhat related but adjunct topic, Steve Jobs recently let the world know his opinion on Adobe’s Flash. Steve put together a nice letter explaining his thoughts and reasons on why Apple has not incorporated Flash on it’s newest technology.

I admit, I’m sometimes frustrated that I can’t view a website on my iPhone because it’s a Flash site and even cursed Steve under my breath. But I can see Steves point.

So does Charlie Stross. Charlie has a theory that might explain what is really going on at Apple. Apple seems to be able to see into the future and Charlie thinks they’re seeing the end of the PC.

How is this “somewhat” related to ACTA?

Simple.

Industry leaders are pushing towards the 3 screens and a cloud scenario. The basic idea is to have all your content accessible to all screens. This would be great, right? Yes, it would. My content available on any device I own would make life a little simpler.

And if copyrighted content is all online, located in large warehouses and I can only license ACCESS to the content, copyright enforcement becomes easy. Very easy.

Right now, Apple keeps 29¢ for each 99¢ sale on the iTunes store. So why should Apple change its model? Steve realizes that maintaining a strong vertical market for content and the devices that consume content requires the strong ENFORCEMENT of copyright. That enforcement is much easier if the copyrighted content is not on the device, but in the warehouse…

Apple realizes that a strong enforcement of copyright is the ticket to maintaining revenues for Apple, not for the holders of copyrighted materials.

The iPad is a reasonable device to view content on, regardless of it’s copyright status. The iTunes store is a great place to purchase or even license content from, especially is you own the copyright… And if you’re Apple, you can change your model to let consumers view content through a device you totally control. Once the content is in the “cloud” you never let consumers actually HAVE a copy of the content (yeah yeah, if I can see it, I can copy it, I know). but I can see copyright infringement beginning to solve itself, which draws in more people with content they want to protect, which enlarges the offering to consumers, which brings more profits to everyone, which makes everyone happy. Right? Right.

WRONG.

Aged consumers like me want to be able to share what moves us. I enjoy giving books and CDs and DVDs to my friends. It’s exciting to see someone light up when they connect to a piece of art like I do. More importantly, I want artifacts I can hand down to my kids that they can hand down to their kids. I expect that I will bequeath my iTunes account to my children. But for some reason it does not have the same heft as that first edition of The Hobbit by Tolkien.

It appears that content in the cloud will protect copyright. But if content really IS king, then the secrets that the next generation iPhone might have held could explain the reaction the “police” had to Jason Chen. What else could explain the over-reaction by the law? Not protecting copyright.

Peace.

-Bil