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Why ACTA is a threat to open data and the open Web

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is the latest attempt by the traditional copyright industries to tame the Internet, and to turn back the clock. It is born of the struggle between business models that were drawn up in the 18th century, with the technical,economic and social realities of the 21st-century Internet. The former are based on analogue scarcity, the latter on digital abundance.

A key part of that abundance is open data, which draws its power from sharing information as freely as possible in order to allow it to be combined and analysed in new ways. That is antithetical to ACTA’s approach, which is about top-down control and minimising unauthorised uses of digital artefacts. What this means is that the intentionally vague terms of ACTA’s enforcement provisions might well be implemented in a way that throttles the spread and growth of open data practices. A world under ACTA and its successors – like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement – is not a world in which open data or the open Web can thrive.