Remember SOPA? Or PIPA? These are American bills which, thanks to huge protest from sites like Wikipedia, have not been incorporated in the American legislation. Had these bills been passed, it would have harmed the Internet to an extent that sites supposedly using copyrighted material could be taken down without any form of trial. As the current copyright laws are open for interpretation, this would mean that practically all sites could be taken down by big corporations which are too lazy to innovate their business model.
But SOPA/PIPA wasn’t that bad. At least not when compared with its European brother ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement), that is. The central idea of this bill is to protect products from counterfeiting. However, this isn’t a clear concept: counterfeiting can be interpreted very broadly, ranging from trademark and copyright infringement, to patents and other restriction mechanisms. But ACTA also empowers customs officers to check your hard drive and USB sticks on copyrighted material when crossing borders. And of course, it also allows for “counterfeiting” sites to be taken down with minimal effort, closely resembling the late SOPA bill.
It’s especially that last thing that bothers iRail. A lot.
If ACTA would have been accepted by the Belgian government, the NMBS/SNCB would not have tried to stop iRail through a lawyer back in 2009. They would have filed a complaint and iRail would have been blocked straight away (without passing through court first). For good. And wouldn’t have stopped there: we might even have been arrested, just like the people from MegaUpload.
This is not promoting fair competition, neither is it improving the copyright holder’s situation. It is a war against democracy, open knowledge and the freedom of speech.
Tomorrow, the Polish government will be the first to sign ACTA. It’s time for us to wake up. Now.