user preferences

Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and Intellectual Property

category north america / mexico | economy | opinion / analysis author Tuesday February 23, 2010 21:53author by Gavin Gleeson - WSM - personal capacity Report this post to the editors

The ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) is a trade agreement being negotiated by the Obama administration through the United States Office of the Trade Representative. The trade agreement is particularly interesting on a number of points. First, it's interesting because it's secret. The public has not been allowed to view any of the candidate treaties. Not only is it secret, but it also is being negotiated without congressional oversight. The justification for it being negotiated in secret by the executive is ostensibly that it does not change any existing domestic law in the United States.

However, candidates for the treaty negotiations which have been leaked make this claim rather dubious. To begin with, third party liability is included in the treaty. Third party liability means that internet service providers (ISPs) can be made liable for the content which is distributed on their network. ISPs currently have immunity in the US and all EU states.

The treaty would force ISPs to put in place methods of enforcement. Alleged copyright infringement or other counterfeiting would be subject to something similar to the "Three strikes" law existing in France. It would require revocation of services by the ISP regardless of whether the allegation was true.

All of this is rather draconian and is occurring without even the usual ritual of democratic legitimacy. Given the usual tendency for congressional capitulation to moneyed interests, it's somewhat striking that even the congressional rubber stamp has been bypassed.

To find the answer, we have to look beyond the immediate circumstance to a general trend which has been accelerated by the recent economic crisis. Though stock market commentators and the media have been proclaiming the end of the crisis, the causes of the crisis are still very much in evidence.

Since the time of Adam Smith the role of international economics has been known. Socialists of the last century, largely due to Marx, were well aware of the international nature of capital. However, the power of the nation state still had some sway. Levies and tariffs on trade could be used to protect native industries and to reduce the flow of goods internationally. Yet capital is always pulling at the reins, attempting to break free of the constraints placed on it by national economies and national currencies. It is reined in through war and crisis but each time it is pulled back, the nation states' capacity to do so is weakened, and the interconnectedness of the global economy has increases, not monotonically, but with a very definite globalising trend.

Now, however, the knowledge economy has moved to the fore. Production in this sphere is no longer tied to the extraction of raw materials, farming and factories. It's no longer tied to the distribution and service economy that springs up as an adjunct to material production. Instead, knowledge has become an ever larger part of the economy - for its own sake.

This economy is an ever growing percentage of the entire economy. The investment in fixed capital for production has means that industry is ever more efficient, requiring less labour and costing less as time goes on. The quantity of food produced by a single human with modern farming techniques is vastly higher. The number of people required to man a car assembly line is vastly lower. We can only expect that as this trend continues, the knowledge economy will become entirely dominant.

Knowledge can be transmitted easily with almost no distribution cost and has international value. It is an ideal candidate as commodity for international trade if only for a few problems. You take up the problems in the next paragraph - don't need it here. Knowledge is infinitely reproducible, and with digital technology, these reproductions are essentially identical to the original.

These qualities make knowledge a somewhat problematic commodity. It is a commodity that can be copied infinitely, and so after the initial production, displays no real scarcity. In virtually every economic theory, from Marxism to marginalism, the price of such a good should be effectively zero. It is only through some sort of regime of imposed scarcity that such a commodity can be given an appreciable price.

The basis for intellectual property (IP) trade is thereby undermined by its intrinsic nature. The extent to which this is a crisis for producers can easily be seen in the counterfeiting markets which occur everywhere from Haifa to Hong Kong. This good, while a seemingly perfect candidate for international trade, has slipped through the fingers of capital.

Capitalist investors in content production, including Hollywood, the record companies, the software companies, the e-book production companies, purveyors of financial reports and others, have had some success in controlling the free exchange of information within the borders of the nation state. At least they have done so to the extent that they can report significant profits. This has been achieved by employing the legal apparatus to ensure compliance with a system of arbitrary scarcity. Scarcity is imposed by threat of criminality and fines.

The solution advocated by capital, in ACTA or whatever treaty is eventually adopted, is to create a system for imposing such a regime internationally. The simplest mechanism is to place liability on the internet service providers, making them the de facto enforcers of the system of scarcity.

What might an alternative look like? How might content producers manage to produce works without requiring payment for those works based on their scarcity? The answer to this problem lies in the old economy. It is through the reorganisation of our economic basis that we can finally free knowledge production from the arbitrary constraints of scarcity. Instead of requiring payment for knowledge production based on how well we can control who sees it, we need to invert the process entirely. We should be showing people what content we want produced and diverting goods to supply them with the ability to do so.

A team of software engineers working on an innovative new program have the potential to simplify work for hundreds or even thousands. What is needed is for their subsistence to be provided while they develop it, and in a way not tied to the eventual scarcity of the product. A much better way to determine suitability of fundinct such a project would be to allow people to express their interests in such a project. Similarly, this type of funding could work for scientific research or even film production.

But this change is not a simple reform. It would require control of the entire apparatus of finance be put into the hands of consumers. It would require that the consumers themselves dictate where funding goes, irrespective of the capacity to obtain profit.

It is in fact a revolutionary change, moving the economy to an administration of things, for instance the productive basis of society, rather than the administration of people evidenced by a system which litigates people into compliance with the rules.

This revolutionary change will not come about by itself. The likelihood is that ACTA will be passed in a manner to the liking of the capital interests which back it. It remains however a possibility, a possibility that will only come to pass if we create it.

Related Link:

This page has not been translated into Norsk yet.

This page can be viewed in
English Italiano Deutsch

Front page

(Bielorrusia) ¡Libertad inmediata a nuestro compañero Mikola Dziadok!

DAF’ın Referandum Üzerine Birinci Bildirisi:

Cajamarca, Tolima: consulta popular y disputa por el territorio

Statement on the Schmidt Case and Proposed Commission of Inquiry

Aodhan Ó Ríordáin: Playing The Big Man in America

Nós anarquistas saudamos o 8 de março: dia internacional de luta e resistência das mulheres!

Özgürlüğümüz Mücadelemizdedir

IWD 2017: Celebrating a new revolution

Solidarité avec Théo et toutes les victimes des violences policières ! Non à la loi « Sécurité Publique » !

Solidaridad y Defensa de las Comunidades Frente al Avance del Paramilitarismo en el Cauca

A Conservative Threat Offers New Opportunities for Working Class Feminism

De las colectivizaciones al 15M: 80 años de lucha por la autogestión en España

False hope, broken promises: Obama’s belligerent legacy

Primer encuentro feminista Solidaridad – Federación Comunista Libertaria

Devrimci Anarşist Tutsak Umut Fırat Süvarioğulları Açlık Grevinin 39 Gününde

The Fall of Aleppo

Italia - Ricostruire opposizione sociale organizzata dal basso. Costruire un progetto collettivo per l’alternativa libertaria.

Recordando a César Roa, luchador de la caña

Prison Sentence to Managing Editor of Anarchist Meydan Newspaper in Turkey

Liberación de la Uma Kiwe, autonomía y territorio: una mirada libertaria para la comprensión de la lucha nasa

Misunderstanding syndicalism

American Anarchist and Wobbly killed by Turkey while fighting ISIS in Rojava

Devlet Tecavüzdür

Attaque fasciste sur la Croix Rousse et contre la librairie libertaire la Plume Noire

North America / Mexico | Economy | en

Wed 26 Apr, 08:08

browse text browse image

120917124939chicagoteachersstrike02horizontalgallery.jpg imageThe Chicago Teachers Strike and the Privatization of a Generation 06:42 Wed 26 Sep by John Jacobsen 0 comments

John Jacobsen reports on developements in the contract negotiations between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union in the context of public school closings and the rise of charter schools. [Italiano]

g20clac.jpg imageResisting the G20 18:15 Wed 07 Jul by Secrétariat externe UCL 0 comments

The UCL wishes to salute the courage of all those people, radical or not, who dared to challenge the climate of terror created by the State and who took part in the protests against the G20 Summit in Toronto. [Français]

manif1eravril.jpg image15 000 people against the budget in Montreal 11:25 Sun 04 Apr by Secrétariat aux relations extérieures 0 comments

On 1 April 2010 some 15,000 people filled the business district in Montreal at the invitation of more than 95 organizations of unions, feminists and students. Was this was the first stage of a unified response against the Liberal budget ? Only time will tell. In any case, it was a beautiful demonstration of the great popular procession type, very diverse , unified and combative (at least at the level of rhetoric...).


poster.jpg imageWorkers Without Bosses - Ontario/Quebec Speaking Tour 10:08 Thu 21 Jan by Common Cause 0 comments

We are going through one of the worst economic crises in the history of capitalism and the answers provided by the state and its lackeys are illusory. In addition, faced with this impasse, our leaders are trying to shift the entire burden of the crisis to workers and their communities.


usinessanspatron.gif imageFactories without bosses (Take 2): 12:58 Sun 03 Jan by Secrétariat 0 comments

We are going through one of the worst economic crises in the history of capitalism and the answers provided by the state and its lackeys are illusory. In addition, faced with this impasse, our leaders are trying to shift the entire burden of the crisis to the workers.


secutiry.jpg imageCanada gears up for SPP protests 06:11 Fri 17 Aug by Andrew 0 comments

On August 20-21 Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets in secret with George Bush and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico at Montebello, Quebec as part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). The SPP has as a goal the elimination of differences on standards between the USA, Canada and Mexico. Under this process Canada is already raising the quantities of pesticide residues that are allowed to be on food

textUSA minimum wage at seventy year low! 18:38 Fri 04 Nov by Anarcho 4 comments

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, unskilled and non-unionised workers got $7.89 per hour in today's money. In other words, the Republican politicians have decided that America's workers should get a minimum wage 35% lower than workers 70 years ago

imageCrisis and Revolt Sep 28 by Wayne Price 0 comments

Liberals and progressive forces support the Democratic Party in elections, even though humanity is facing a number of interconnected threats and nightmarish catastrophes: economic, ecological/climate, and others. Democratic liberals, while perhaps the "lesser evil" to the Republican reactionaries, have no solutions to the objective dangers which threaten society with great suffering and destruction. The only real alternative is popular mass struggle or defeat--socialist-anarchism or catastrophes.

imageThere’s No Hope Above Us, Only Amongst Us Nov 22 by Thomas 0 comments

With the recent re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, many are rejoicing and breathing a sigh of relief. There’s a widespread belief amongst those who elected him that he is looking out for us and will fight for us. Unfortunately, besides a few token gestures that may occur during the next four years, his tenure in office is likely to be both a disappointment and one in which the interests of the elite classes are served at the expense of the popular classes. As described below, this has to do with structural, historical and social factors that have been ensuring, and continue to ensure, that this is the case regardless of who is in office. However, there is hope; we’re just looking for it in the wrong places.

image[US] Of Budget Cuts and Union Officials Jun 14 by John E Jacobsen 0 comments

The official business union strategy of supporting the Democratic Party falls flat on its ass... again. [Italiano]

textReflections on Stiglitz article: "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%" Jun 03 by Thomas 0 comments

A family member of mine recently sent me an article from Vanity Fair by economist Joseph Stiglitz about the problem of elite control within the United States.  While it's refreshing that the article is talking about the problem to a mainstream audience, it stops short of delving deep enough the problem at a systemic level, and perhaps more importantly: doesn't address the need for complete systemic change.  The broader points that Stiglitz brings up are also supported by the Economic Policy Institute - an economics resource that has some great research reports on the topic of how government policy has favored the elite - including: a report showing how the budget cuts proposed in comparison to the tax cuts given and another showing how recently all economic gains have gone to the top 10% (with over 75% of those gains going to the top 1%). 

imageWall Street Already Finding Loopholes in Financial Reform Legislation Nov 17 by John E Jacobsen 0 comments

Continuing in the tradition of watered down, pro-corporate legislation that the Obama administration is becoming infamous for, new reports are surfacing that banks and financial institutions may continue to get away with the same risky trading and investment practices that landed us in a recession.

Like the watered down health care reforms, or the pathetic Credit Card Act, the recent Dodd-Frank financial regulations signed into law by Obama are quickly showing themselves to be more or less useless for American workers.

more >>

imageResisting the G20 Jul 07 Union Communiste Libertaire 0 comments

The UCL wishes to salute the courage of all those people, radical or not, who dared to challenge the climate of terror created by the State and who took part in the protests against the G20 Summit in Toronto. [Français]

imageWorkers Without Bosses - Ontario/Quebec Speaking Tour Jan 21 0 comments

We are going through one of the worst economic crises in the history of capitalism and the answers provided by the state and its lackeys are illusory. In addition, faced with this impasse, our leaders are trying to shift the entire burden of the crisis to workers and their communities.


imageFactories without bosses (Take 2): Jan 03 Union communiste libertaire 0 comments

We are going through one of the worst economic crises in the history of capitalism and the answers provided by the state and its lackeys are illusory. In addition, faced with this impasse, our leaders are trying to shift the entire burden of the crisis to the workers.


© 2005-2017 Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by [ Disclaimer | Privacy ]