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.