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Canada and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)

October 30, 2009

Canadians, and main stream media, should be paying closer attention to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, also known as ACTA.  First of all, because Canada is  a participant in the negotiations.  Second, and most importantly, ACTA’s  scope and content is pretty broad:  it’s not about counterfeiting, but intellectual property and the Internet.

Internet freedom, protest, copyright laws
Pic courtesy of Flickr user “Mr. Java”

That’s right: we are about to see another layer of international law to investigate, prohibit, deter, and punish, illegal downloading and copying of songs, movies, pictures, etc.

ACTA is a new treaty about the enforcement of intellectual property rights currently being pushed by some countries and regions with the wealthiest IP industries, like the United States, the European Community and Japan. Spawned, originally, from the 2005 G8 Summit, where countries concluded a resolve to fight piracy and counterfeiting, the aforementioned countries have been spearheading negotiations on ACTA since 2007.

But there might be another reason why you haven’t heard about — the discussions have been highly secretive. So far, there has yet to be any draft of the treaty — formal or informal — for public scrutiny.  The closest thing to disclosure so far is that the United States Trade Representative released a “summary” of the different proposals being considered for ACTA, and its clear that there are some pretty serious, even disturbing, ideas being discussed, such as  “border measures”, for seizure of items (like laptops) at borders where pirated material is suspected; criminalization for IP infringement, and there’s also a section on IP enforcement in the “digital environment”, which is obviously code for “the Internet”.

And why should you care about it right now?  Well, the next round of negotiations are commencing next week in Seoul. And while this “detailed” agenda released by the Canadian Government provides all we need to know about when the delegates will be taking tea breaks, Canadians should demand greater transparency and less secrecy in the negotiating process.  We have seen this before. And we should demand better.

After all: What’s the point of copyright consultations— done through our own democratic processes — if a handful of delegates are negotiating away our rights and interests in secretive trade forums across the sea?

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