Cory Doctorow is reporting over on BoingBoing that a draft of a forthcoming copyright treaty has been leaked and it apparently contains a number of very concerning provisions—some of which so much so it’s hard to believe they could be enforced. Here is one:
That ISPs have to cut off the Internet access of accused copyright infringers or face liability. This means that your entire family could be denied to the internet — and hence to civic participation, health information, education, communications, and their means of earning a living — if one member is accused of copyright infringement, without access to a trial or counsel.
Now, MIT OpenCourseWare has been accused of copyright infringement a couple of times (all instances of which were resolved by clarifying ownership of materials we believed to have been clear and none of which involved litigation). Would this mean that the next time it happens MIT OpenCourseWare would have to be denied Internet access by MIT, who runs our origin server and thus is our ISP? By Akamai, who handles our worldwide distribution? Would MIT have to cut off Internet service to itself, as OCW is not a separate legal entity?
Now in addition to not being an economist, I am also not a lawyer, but as this is being reported, it ranges from confusing to very alarming. Secret treaties that undercut the free flow of ideas and information to serve the needs of corporate interests are not a reason I voted for Obama, or rather they are, but that’s because they were the MO of the previous administration. I have resisted jumping on the “dissapointed in Obama” bandwagon because my yardstick has always been “Better than McCain?” but this would truly disappoint.