06 April 2009

The Latest Act in the ACTA Farce

I think the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement(ACTA) will prove something of a watershed in the negotiations of treaties. We have already gone from a situation where governments around the world have all-but denied the thing existed, to the point where the same people are now scrambling to create some semblance of openness without actually revealing too much.

Here's the latest attempt, which comes from the US team:

A variety of groups have shown their interest in getting more information on the substance of the negotiations and have requested that the draft text be disclosed. However, it is accepted practice during trade negotiations among sovereign states to not share negotiating texts with the public at large, particularly at earlier stages of the negotiation. This allows delegations to exchange views in confidence facilitating the negotiation and compromise that are necessary in order to reach agreement on complex issues. At this point in time, ACTA delegations are still discussing various proposals for the different elements that may ultimately be included in the agreement. A comprehensive set of proposals for the text of the agreement does not yet exist.

This is rather amusing. On the one hand, the negotiators have to pretend that "a comprehensive set of proposals for the text of the agreement does not yet exist", so that we can't find out the details; on the other, they want to finish off negotiations as quickly as possible, so as to prevent too many leaks. Of course, they can't really have it both ways, which is leading to this rather grotesque dance of the seven veils, whereby bits and pieces are revealed in an attempt to keep us quiet in the meantime.

The latest summary does contain some interesting background details that I'd not come across before:

In 2006, Japan and the United States launched the idea of a new plurilateral treaty to help in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy, the so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The aim of the initiative was to bring together those countries, both developed and developing, that are interested in fighting counterfeiting and piracy, and to negotiate an agreement that enhances international co-operation and contains effective international standards for enforcing intellectual property rights.

Preliminary talks about such an anti-counterfeiting trade agreement took place throughout 2006 and 2007 among an initial group of interested parties (Canada, the European Commission, Japan, Switzerland and the United States). Negotiations started in June 2008 with the participation of a broader group of participants (Australia, Canada, the European Union and its 27 member states, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States).

The rest, unfortunately, is the usual mixture of half-truths and outright fibs. But this constant trickle of such documents shows that they are taking notice of us, and that we must up the pressure for full disclosure of what exactly is being negotiated in our name.

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reine said...

Why the french put up with this?... cause they are cowards, they are afraid to lose their jobs, or so!, they don't want to appear as leftists, and they are all on winthing, and are affraid of the "bad hackers"!, and they do as told!. any way, GNU/Linux world domination" (on the servers!!!)

nzlemming said...

"The latest summary does contain some interesting background details that I'd not come across before"

Where have you been? ;-)

I blogged the history of ACTA last month http://tracs.co.nz/gripping-hand/charge-of-the-ip-brigade/

glyn moody said...

Thanks for the link - interesting stuff. Where did you find it?

nzlemming said...

When the NZ govt called for submissions last year, I did a little digging, just following link to link, really. It was becoming obvious that there was a general non-WTO push towards enclosure of the knowledge commons (SECURE, broadcast flag, WIPO discussions, 3 strikes everywhere) which had to be larger than RIAA/MPAA, and that started me thinking about what else was affected, i.e. drugs. Sometimes we become obsessed with the digital stuff and we miss the tree right in front of us ;-)

glyn moody said...

Great to have your site and analysis to help raise awareness about this.