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A Tough ACTA To Follow

Planning a trip in the next little while? Better make sure you don’t have any illegally (or even legally) downloaded media on your laptops or MP3 players when you’re crossing the border—if you don’t want a hassle, that is. The Vancouver Sun is reporting that the Feds are “secretly” negotiating an agreement (known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement [ACTA]) with other like-minded countries, including the U.S. (surprise!), Japan, South Korea, and members of the European Union, which could make the media on your favourite electronical doohickey illegal.
Unsurprisingly, staunch digital-rights defender Michael Geist previously expressed reservations about ACTA when it was first announced, comparing it with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), except this time with countries who really, really like making up international anti-counterfeiting strategies. Geist contends that since the ACTA proponents decided to dispense with a U.N. approach altogether, the agreement will be free to more thoroughly ruin your fun by strictly enforcing and penalizing copyright infringements. Swish! (More of Geist’s take on ACTA here.)
Of course, one of the most interesting ramifications of the proposed agreement would be to give customs agents the authority to search laptops and MP3 players for pirated material. According to the Sun, “The guards would also be responsible for determining what is infringing content and what is not….[and] the agreement proposes any content that may have been copied from a DVD or digital video recorder would be open for scrutiny by officials—even if the content was copied legally.” Doesn’t it make you feel better to know that border guards and “other public security personnel” will be the front-line arbiters in determining whether your copy of Flo Rida’s new album infringes any copyrights? If you would just go back to using your clunky portable CD and DVD players and retaining your HMV receipts for inspection this line at customs could move a hell of a lot faster, people.
Photo by eshm. Thanks to Roxanne for the tip.


  • AdamSchwabe

    How exactly is a border guard supposed to determine that the MP3 I have on my iPhone is from iTunes or from The Pirate Bay or anywhere else?
    They all look the same in the interface. Same goes for songs on a PC – those without DRM have the same file extension as those that are ripped off a CD.
    This is totally unenforceable. Unless you have folders of deeply nested downloads with “downloaded from Mininova” text files in them or whatever, there’s really nothing that can be proven unless they confiscate your PC and do virtual forensics.
    The precedent is scary though.

  • Mark Ostler

    Scanning computers and mp3 players will add significantly to check-in times, as well and create a backlog. Think of all the business people who take flights on a regular basis every couple of months, with their laptops and blackberries and possibly mp3 players too.

  • lunarworks

    The fact that Harper is completely going along with this, quietly in the backroom no less, doesn’t surprise me in the least.
    This has zero to do with the interest of Canadians, or even other countries’ citizens, and 100% to do with Big American Media.

  • rek

    Of course there’s a Facebook group: Get out of my iPod – No ACTA for Canada

  • rival_oms


    Think of all the business people who take flights on a regular basis every couple of months, with their laptops and blackberries and possibly mp3 players too.

    I doubt the suits are the ones who’ll be searched.

  • Mark Ostler

    rival oms:
    What about the hipster professionals that dress all business-raggedy and ride their vintage bikes really slowly along Queen West?
    …yes I do like commuting quickly.

  • Ben

    Maybe they’ll only let DRMed files across the border, or files which match certain DRM-free, but still payed for, file hashes.
    It would be a hassle for sites that offer legal downloads to comply with this by sending in hashes of all of their files of course.

  • jaybird

    For folks concerned about both copyright and net neutrality, the NDP has been the most active party in the House of Commons. Below are some links so you can find out what the NDP has been doing: