A recent article by Rick Falkvinge posed the question: If ACTA doesn’t change anything, why are they pushing for its passage as if their life depended on it? Well, the answer is rather hilarious: it does, actually.
While this question is obviously a rhetorical device, its answer is none the less relevant to the discussion. And here, I would like to propose an answer to said question. You see, to understand the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, we need to go a little further back in time than the 00’s. We need to go back somewhere to the late 80’s, early 90’s.
This is a guest article from Thijs Markus, who opens on Falkvinge &Co. on Infopolicy with this article.
During this time, a new fashion came over the industries of the day: as pioneered by Nike, large corporations decided to put all their factories overseas, the company would be only its brand. Anything that could be done cheaper at the gunpoint of this or that dictatorship would henceforth be done there. This means pretty much all the dumb labor is done overseas. Thus the trademark, as intended, as a means of identifying who produced what, pretty much ended there.
Why? Well, to take Nike for example, they figured that if they could produce and bring a shoe to a store for $5, and sell it for $150, they get a whooping $145 profit margin. This profit margin could then be spent on marketing, which is why you know the Nike logo with your eyes closed. The whole idea of the operation was exactly that: by making the shoe as cheaply as possible, the largest possible margin could be spent on marketing, thus ensuring the largest possible market share.
So here you have a company that takes in $5 shoes from third world countries, brands them, and sells them for $150. That’s pretty damn clever and profitable. However, there is one very minor loophole they overlooked in this manoeuvre. I could train a chimpanzee to take a logo and apply it on a product, and slightly more industrious primates all over the planet are doing as much. And now, some 20 years later, they begin to realize that in fact they have nothing to sell, their sole asset is the legal right to the logo they spent billions, even trillions to idolize.
Realizing that their scam is running thin, hanging only by the thread that people in fact respect their right to brand something, they swung into action the lobby apparatus to tell the rest of the world how very naughty they are when they don’t respect said right. And the result, amongst a long list of treaties-and-such, is ACTA.