ACTA threatens made-in-Canada copyright policy

Geist-48X68.jpgPosted by Michael Geist
Last week Canadian officials travelled to Seoul for the latest round of closed-door negotiations on an international treaty called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Battling commercial counterfeiting would seem like a good idea, but leaks have revealed that ACTA — which has been conducted with unprecedented secrecy — is really about copyright, rather than counterfeiting.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that from the moment the talks began last year, observers noted the approach was far different from virtually any other international treaty negotiation. Rather than negotiating in an international venue such as the United Nations and opening the door to any interested countries, ACTA partners consisted of a small group of countries (Canada, United States, European Union, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Morocco, and Singapore) meeting in secret and opposed broadening the process. The substance of the treaty was also accorded the highest level of secrecy. Draft documents were not released to the public and even the locations of negotiations were often kept under wraps. In fact, the U.S. government refused to disclose information about the treaty on national security grounds.
Despite the efforts to keep the public in the dark, there has been a steady stream of leaks. Earlier this year, it was revealed criminal provisions would target both commercial and non-commercial infringement, creating the prospect of jail time even in cases where there was no intent to profit. Further, border guards would be given new powers to search people and seize products as they enter a country.
Just as negotiators were sitting down to discuss ACTA's Internet-related provisions last Wednesday, information on those proposals also leaked. The disclosures were the most disturbing to date, since they conclusively demonstrated that ACTA is fundamentally not a counterfeiting treaty, but rather one focused on copyright. Click here to read the whole of Michael's post.

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