ACTA Process to Go Public

The negotiators of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) are expected to publish the first official draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement on Wednesday April 21, after various previous versions of the secretive document have been leaked.  This development follows the negotiations which took place in Wellington, New Zealand last week.

Strangely, after such lengthy discussions, the negotiators say that this session led to improved understanding of the respective national regimes and how they worked in practice. They also worked to narrow existing differences in the areas of Civil Enforcement, Border Measures, Criminal Enforcement and Special Measures for the Digital Environment.

It’s a tad disappointing that the supranational and national agencies apparently remain in ignorance of worldwide national laws and practices after the money that’s been spent, the reports produced, inter-governmental cooperation and information exchanges and, the conferences organised. What have they been doing with citizens’ taxes?

The negotiators now appear of a mind to open the consultation to people and organizations possessing a wide range of specialist and professional skill and expertise, who have so far been excluded – that’s gracious of them! Yet they still wish to maintain confidentiality regarding the negotiating positions of the participants, who supposedly are representative democracies where their governments are accountable to their electorates.  So in whose name is this being done?

It appears that a “graduated response” or “three strikes” provision for terminating the Internet accounts of those who repeatedly share unauthorized content will not be in the text, although a number of other provisions and new criminal offences will be. Apparently ACTA’s negotiators do not wish to interfere with a country’s ability to respect its citizen’s fundamental rights and liberties.

The press release also indicates that ACTA will be consistent with the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) of 1994 and will respect the Declaration on TRIPS.

There is no proposal to oblige ACTA participants to require authorities to search travelers’ baggage or their personal electronic devices for infringing materials at border crossings.

Not only have the European Parliament and EU Privacy Czar been concerned about these negotiations but ISPs have also been making their views felt.

The next meeting is scheduled for June, with the aim of concluding ACTA as soon as possible in 2010.

Bill Jones is CEO of Global Village Ltd.

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