Check That MP3 Player at the Border: ACTA Could Bring Tough New Copyright Laws
Living close to the Canada/US border used to be a lot less stressful. You could head across to either side for a simple lunch date and head back with little more ceremony than a few questions to ensure you didn’t fit some dubious profile. New international copyright regulation could make that border trip with your iPod, cell phone or laptop a hazardous exercise in your right to private property.
Secretive meetings are taking place now between the governments of the US, Canada and the EU that could clamp down on you if you cross the border with any data-storage device. Journalists in Canada have received leaked notes about the secret international negotiations for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
If passed, border guards who you’d think have enough to worry about, would become copyright police for the RIAA and Hollywood studios. They’d be granted sweeping powers to conduct searches of any storage device you try to take across the border. They’d have the authority to act against infringers, meaning you could be subject to fines, seizure or even destruction of your equipment.
The agreement will essentially assume that anyone in possession of copyrighted material is guilty of infringement unless they can prove otherwise. It will be necessary to prove that you own the CD or DVDs you have backed up on your laptop or MP3 player. Unless you still have receipts for all that ripped media you could be in for a long future border crossing.
The draconian policies proposed by ACTA require Americans to toss away their constitution and its guarantee of private property and mandate for the burden of proof upon an accuser. Existing copyright laws in Canada and the US require rights holders to present evidence of infringement. Much to the pleasure of groups like the RIAA and MPAA the policy on fair use would be another casualty as a result of ACTA. Mandated by the 1984 Supreme Court’s Sony vs. Universal, it was established that it’s fair use for an owner to duplicate copyrighted materials for personal use. This has protected VCR, PVR and MP3 player owners ever since.
If ACTA passes and border enforcement agents are given the powers to act as judge, jury and executioner you could have your cell-phone taken away for that “Whoop there it is” ring-tone as you try to make a dinner date with a cross-border client. Is that fair? Whoop, there it isn’t! You can thank me later for putting that ridiculous song into your head.