Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Monday, August 4, 2008

Submission on ACTA – August 2008

Submission about proposed ACTA treaty – Colin Jackson
1.Thank you for the opportunity to submit on the proposed ACTA treaty.
2.I am Colin Jackson, an independent technology consultant and technology commentator. I have a range of experience as a technologist and a policy maker. I was a founder of InternetNZ and am a past president of it. I was the first IT policy specialist advisor appointed by the Ministry of Commerce. I am a judge of two different technology awards. I write this submission on my own behalf.
3.My interest in ACTA relates to its potential application to the Internet. I have no view on the enforcement of anti-counterfeiting measures for physical goods.
4.New Zealand has done very well out of the Internet. TourismNZ’s web site attracts a large number of overseas visitors every year. MAF disseminates the range of detailed regulations necessary for the primary produce industry through the Internet. The Companies Office recently closed all channels other than the Internet for submission of company documents.
5.The examples above show that the Internet makes New Zealand more a more effective exporter and advertiser of our culture (exceptionally among other countries, because of our remoteness), and that it makes New Zealand and the New Zealand Government more efficient through the use of electronic channels do deliver information and services to people in a manner they find convenient. These contribute strongly to the government’s goal of building a sustainable economy.
6.The Internet in New Zealand also contributes strongly to the Government’s goal of strengthening national identity – Radio New Zealand’s podcasting, and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage’s Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and New Zealand History sites are examples, and there are many private sector examples as well.
7.New Zealand, perhaps uniquely as a very remote but developed country, has become completely dependent on the Internet. It is now considered to be critical infrastructure.
8.It is worth remembering that the Internet is not the commercial product of any one company. In the late 1980s and early 1990s there were many competing commercial networks. None of them succeeded like the Internet, and they have all now been closed or subsumed by it. This is because the Internet is not a product, service, or even a collection of wires and computers; rather it is a set of well-engineered and openly- published standards. Its success, and its usefulness, are direct results of the decisions of its designers to make it open, so that anyone with an idea for a new service can try to run it over the Internet.
9.Skype, the World Wide Web, and email itself are all services which people at one time or another invented and made work across the Internet. They did not have to ask anyone’s permission because the services conformed to the open standards. If permission was necessary, or commercial dues had to be paid to providers along the way, these services would not have happened and the Internet would have remained an academic curiosity.
10.Engineers refer to this openness to new services are ‘the end to end principle’. Broadly, it states that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have no business but moving Internet data from one place to another as their customer desire, and that in particular they may not differentiate between types of Internet data or attempt to substitute their own services for what their customer is trying to achieve.
11.Some measures which are proposed by intellectual property lobbyists to be inserted into ACTA would be inimical to the further development of the Internet. In particular, any measure which made ISPs liable for the actions of their customers would effectively require ISPs to break the end to end principle, by forcing them to inspect the contents of their customers’ data flows and filter them based on whether they might contain copyrighted material.
12.ISPs have no way to determine definitively what is and is not subject to copyright, so any such measure would perforce be over-broad – i.e. stop all videos, sound files or software downloads – simply so that the ISP concerned could avoid being sued.
13.Some Internet traffic is encrypted, for sound reasons such as online banking or e-commerce. If ISPs are to be made liable, it is hard to see how they could permit encrypted traffic from their customers, since they would have no way to check it for infringing material.
14.Confining video, sound or software distribution to ‘licensed’ sites in some fashion would break the rights of free software producers and of independent artists to distribute their work as they wished. Since the Internet depends on free software for its very existence this would suppress the openness which has led to it being the platform for innovation it is today.
15.Lest there be any thought that the Internet is fully developed, and that no further development is necessary or desirable, I refer you to Vint Cerf (the co-inventor of TCP/IP, the core Internet protocol) who says that 90% of services on the Internet are yet to be invented.
16.Furthermore, the New Zealand Government is itself using new services as they arise, an example being Tourism NZ recently placing high-quality visitor information into Google Earth.
17.I have based the arguments above on economic grounds. There are several others, such as the right of Internet users to privacy, which would be severely curtailed if their Internet connections were to be the subject of anti-counterfeiting measures.
18.I urge the New Zealand Government not to agree to anything which requires Internet suppliers to control people’s actions on the Internet.
Colin Jackson
14 July 2008

posted by colin at 11:37 am  

1 Comment

  1. […] talked about this on the radio a few weeks ago. And here’s my submission to the Government – which still hasn’t even been so much as acknowledged, over three weeks after I sent […]

    Pingback by » More about ACTA — 5 August 2008 @ 7:13 am

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