Last weekend we found ourselves in Amsterdam’s Leidesplein just as the Europe-wide ACTA protest rolled into the square. We found a volunteer for a spur-of-the-moment on-the-spot interview. One week later, I collected my own thoughts on ACTA and committed them to video, posted above. This is what I had to say:
First I’d like to clarify the moral dimension. As an libertarian objectivist I do believe there is such a thing as a best moral code to live by. Other libertarians believe morality is entirely personal, but what we all agree on is that politics and morality should be considered one at a time. It takes some of the emotion out of the debate if you can agree that piracy is morally questionable, certainly controversial, and then start with a fresh mind to consider the political and legal consequences of piracy
ACTA primarily targets internet service providers and the owners of online communities. If you believe that morality is about making choices, then it’s difficult to get upset with these groups. They are not choosing to pirate videos, nor are they making and selling them. They are third parties to the piracy.
Film makers on the other hand are doing a bad job of selling films online legally. An Open Rights Group report showed that compared to physical DVDs online movies are overpriced and many good movies aren’t even available yet. No wonder then that people pirate movies: piracy is a better way of getting movies. It seems to me that movie makers would prefer to impose themselves onto ISPs by commissioning the force of law. They want the ISPs to help get rid of a competitor that they could try to outsell in the marketplace.
If ISPs were to break this law, then the ultimate sanction is that they go to jail. This seems uncivilised at best. Afterall, putting people in jail is a form of violence, and remember these are third parties.
Governments should be in place to protect liberty. Not make slaves out of business owners, just because their customers might be acting immorally. The one moral principle libertarians agree should be part of politics forbids that kind of thing. That’s the “non-aggression principle”. Political institutions should uphold that principle, without transgressing it themselves – as ACTA does.