The disability community should be concerned about ACTA for two reasons:
1. At its core it’s an anti-piracy agreement. The digital measures designed to defeat piracy usually end up equating accessibility with piracy.Accessibility of digital media has been repeatedly and systematically denied because of digital measures to “protect” content. People with disabilities are repeatedly left out in the cold because accessibility concerns don’t rank high on tech company priority lists. A great (bad) example is Adobe, one of the leading ebook technology vendors, who just introduced their Digital Editions. Unfortunately, although accessibility was in the prior Adobe product, the Digital Rights Management (DRM) of Digital Editions locks out print disabled people.
2. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is being negotiated in secret. We don’t know if it’s benign or hostile to accessibility.
The interests that sponsor provisions like those mooted about the secret ACTA provisions, tend to be anti-innovation, with strong focus on control. These approaches usually lock out people with disabilities. Provisions designed to handle copyrighted materials could conflict with fundamental exceptions in copyright law like fair use of copyrighted works and the Chafee Amendment. Do we want people with disabilities, volunteers or teachers losing their internet access without due process because they were handling copyrighted materials in ways that are permitted today in the U.S.?
The secret nature of the negotiations is disturbing. Why have a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)? Why have a legislature? Why have public decision-making? Citizen engagement is a core value of the Obama Administration. What makes the ACTA an exception? The contention that piracy of movies, music and books is a national security issue that necessitates secrecy is implausible to say the least (but it’s the current Administration excuse).
Disability advocates should, at minimum, press for a seat at the ACTA table. Far better would be the open accessible public policy process we’re used to, not secret negotiations that are likely to cause substantial collateral damage to people with disabilities.