The participants in the proposed Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)—one of the few plurilateral (non-regional) trade agreements ever negotiated outside the multilateral trade framework of GATT and WTO—have lifted the veil of secrecy surrounding their negotiations just a little by publishing a “Summary of key elements under discussion”.
Although apparently intended to calm civil-liberties concerns, the new ACTA ‘summary’ does not offer any comfort about e.g. the RIAA’s proposals to the U.S. government that would shift the burden of enforcement of their IP rights onto the taxpayer, including taxpayers in developing countries.
In fact, it contains little more than an explanation of the chapter headings in what must be, already, a fairly complete draft of the proposed ACTA treaty. It provides no details about the content of the provisions and leaves a lot of questions still open about the membership, scope and implementation of the agreement.
In February this year, the Australian government joined negotiations with a number of other developed economies on a proposed ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement). The “negotiations”—if that’s what they are, they seem more like a drafting convention—are being conducted behind closed doors in Geneva. There has been little information from the Australian government on the benefits for Australia of an ACTA or on its potential provisions other than this background paper on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Nor has any information been offered on submissions that Australia might have made to the parties.
I think the process of creating this treaty is likely to be harmful to the international trading system. As to it’s content—who knows? Speculation tends to plausible suggestions of intrusive, expensive, overbearing enforcement. The rationale for the treaty, however, is implausible (see below). There is every reason to think that the ACTA proposal is being driven by copyright zealots who have no interest in the public interest balance that each jurisdiction expresses in its copyright laws. Their pursuit of global copyright standards and enforcement is likely to be motivated by the excessive returns that they achieved—or at least, expected—from the WTO’s 1994 TRIPS agreement.
An important lesson from the last round of WTO negotiations was that economies close to joining WTO should make every effort to get in before the negotiations are over. Russia has given up on joining at the Hong Kong ministerial conference in December, but it has still at least six months after that to complete […]
In a series of posts, Kim Weatherall has illuminated the impact of the High Court’s decision that Australia copyright law—for the present— protects the consumer’s right to access copyright materials acquired in contravention of the right owner’s attempts to segment the global market supply (by price discrimination). I read this decision, casually, as a confirmation […]