The controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations roll on with the latest round of talks scheduled for April 12th-16th in Wellington.
On that date delegates from the countries involved, including Australia, Canada, Morocco, Korea, Jordan, Mexico, Singapore and United Arab Emirates, will descend on the city in order to continue the secret negotiations for a new body of international copyright/counterfeit agreements.
The process has drawn strident criticism from experts around the world.
Little is publicly known of the content of the ACTA negotiations, as they are being conducted in secret, outside the bounds of other international trade groups such as the World Trade Organisation or the World Intellectual Property Organisation.
While those negotiating the treaty have said that full disclosure of the ACTA proposals will eventually be made, commentators fear that by the time the outcomes of negotiations are revealed, drastic new laws will be in place which radically alter the way copyright laws are enforced.
Indeed, leaked documents from the negotiations suggest that draconian new search and seizure laws, as well as invasive monitoring practices, could become the norm if an agreement resembling its current incarnation is reached.
Recently the European Union parliament put a halt on the European Commission’s closed process negotiations, as well as rejecting suggestions that Internet disconnection might be offered as part of the enforcement of any ACTA treaty. The parliament voted overwhelmingly (663 votes to 13) to force the European Council to share information around what’s happening in the ongoing negotiations.
The European parliament’s move has been welcomed by critics, who see it as a first step in resisting what they say is an unreasonable and undemocratic process which is representing copyright holder interests while excluding citizens from participation in the process.
While the official negotiations will take place in private in Wellington on April 12th-16th, InternetNZ has planned PublicACTA, an event designed to offer an open forum for discussing the content of the ACTA proposals, scheduled for Saturday, April 10th in Wellington. The results of the forum will be supplied to the New Zealand government negotiators.
“We’re going to give the public the chance to have their say – in contrast to the secrecy of the negotiation process,” says Jordan Carter, InternetNZ Policy Director.
“The aim of PublicACTA is to raise the public’s concerns, seek improvements to the Agreement, and provide an opportunity for people to connect and discuss the issues. The output will be an agreed statement that the public and interested organisations can sign up to, to be delivered to New Zealand Government negotiators and politicians.
“ACTA could affect everyone’s rights on the Internet. Proposals from some countries seek to go beyond New Zealand’s current public position. It is therefore very important that there is a forum for public discussion,” says Carter.
For more about the ACTA negotiations, see last month’s NetGuide, page 9.