May 25 2008

Border Guards May Get Right To Seize Electronics

borderYou know, I was just thinking, “Hey, self, you know that border guards have way too much free time on their hands! They need something to do that will impossibly clog up people crossing the border into some countries in anything even remotely resembling a reasonable time!”

Oh… thank you, G8!

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been revealed to be a secret proposal that is being worked on by the G8 nations that would empower border guards of the member nations to search through the contents of electronic devices such as iPods, laptops, phones and more for any material that infringes on copyrights. This includes, but is not limited to, files you have ripped from physical media you already own such as CDs and DVDs. If any infringing material is found, you can be fined, have your device seized and even possibly destroyed.

Apparently ACTA was originally thought of for going after large scale piracy, but at some point the whole proposal has gotten drilled down to individual users True, the total final document as not yet been revealed, and it is hard to believe it would stand up in court as the searches are reported to done without benefit of having a lawyer present, but this just screams an endless headache to me.

As if going through customs wasn’t already a big enough of a pain, now they can slow the process down even more as you explain where every file on your iPod came from. Am I now to travel with receipts for every file? Add in the point that they say this will even cover music you ripped from your own CD collection (remember boys & girls, we’ve been told that is stealing), and essentially every iPod crossing the border will have some form of “copyright infringing” file on it.

Is it just me, or do you think border guards have about 5,000 more important things to concern themselves with than someone with a couple of Beatles songs on their iPod they took off their own CDs? Yes… I’m looking at you, President Bush! This proposal would also require Internet service providers (ISPs) to turn over all private information about an individual with no more cause than suspicion of copyright violation.

Essentially, ACTA will turn us even more into a big brother state than ever with people digging through your cyber-life, even on your non-connected gadgets, all in the name of “copyright protection”. I’m sorry, but I have a news flash for everyone: copyrights don’t matter THIS much. I’m all for protecting copyrights, but there comes a point where it is just not worth it to protect some large corporations “intellectual properties” by inconveniencing everyone and their brother at security, treating everyone with an iPod as a potential criminal and then confiscating their devices. Simple solution though, I will simply never travel with my iPod because I simply do not want the hassle of explaining 120+ gigs of music to someone. That many hours of my life is not worth listening to The Ramones on the plane.

What else bothers me about this whole thing is that it was being worked on in secret. It wasn’t until some folks in Canada got wind of it and filed demands for information that it even came to light. Gee, why are you hiding such materials? Because you know it’s ignorant and the general public would never approve it? As the National Post points out, this would be a federal trade agreement, and as such does not require any sort of public ratification to be enacted.

If all goes according to plan, this proposal will be discussed in July when the G8 meets in Japan. We can only hope someone with a brain finally says, “wait a tick…”

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