International copyright treaty seeks intrusive powers

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International copyright treaty seeks intrusive powers

Documents passed to Wikileaks have revealed the extent of an international copyright treaty being formulated by the US, EU, Canada, Japan and Australia..

The Proposed US ACTA multi-lateral intellectual property trade agreement (2007) could see customs officers checking media players for pirated material.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is not yet in force, but is aimed at cutting down on the distribution of unlicensed material.

Suggestions include tougher sentences for distributing material without making a profit, and using regular law enforcement officials to enforce the rights of intellectual property holders.

The proposed treaty would remove the current distinction under many national laws between people who profit from intellectual property theft and those who do not.

This would mean that sites offering BitTorrent feeds, for example, could be prosecuted even if they do not profit from the material.

More worryingly the treaty suggests that customs officers should be given the right to search laptops and media players for pirated material.

Such officers would be able to confiscate and destroy anything they believe to be pirated, fine the owner and confiscate the equipment.

"If Hollywood could order intellectual property laws for Christmas what would they look like? This is pretty close," David Fewer, staff counsel at the University of Ottawa's Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, told Canada.com.

"The process on ACTA so far has been cloak and dagger. This certainly raises concerns."

In addition ISPs could be forced to hand over customer account details without a court order and solely on the say-so of the intellectual property holder. This measure may breach the European convention on human rights.

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