Canadian officials travel to Guadalajara, Mexico this week to resume negotiations on the still-secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The discussion is likely to turn to the prospect of supporting three-strikes and you’re out systems that could result in thousands of people losing access to the Internet based on three allegations of copyright infringement. Leaked ACTA documents indicate that encouraging the adoption of three-strikes – often euphemistically described as "graduated response" for the way Internet providers gradually send increasingly threatening warnings to subscribers – has been proposed for possible inclusion in the treaty.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that while supporters claim that three-strikes is garnering increasing international acceptance, the truth is implementation in many countries is a mixed bag. Countries such as Germany and Spain have rejected it, acknowledging criticisms that loss of Internet access for up to a year for an entire household is a disproportionate punishment for unproven, non-commercial infringement.
Those countries that have ventured forward have faced formidable barriers. New Zealand withdrew a three-strikes proposal in the face of public protests (a much watered-down version was floated at the end of last year), the UK's proposal has been hit with hundreds of proposed amendments at the House of Lords, and France's adventure with three-strikes has included initial defeat in the French National Assembly, a Constitutional Court ruling that the plan was unconstitutional, and delayed implementation due to privacy concerns from the country's data protection commissioner.
Much of the three-strikes debate has focused on its impact on Internet users, yet the price of establishing such systems have scarcely been discussed. That may be changing due to the UK government's own estimates on the likely costs borne by Internet providers and taxpayers in establishing and maintaining a three-strikes system.