The 7th round of discussions in the ongoing Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations began in Mexico yesterday and will conclude Jan. 29. The four-day session will feature discussions of draft provisions covering civil enforcement, border measures, and technological enforcement means and the internet.
For the uninitiated, the ACTA is the biggest thing to hit the international IP landscape since the TRIPS agreement of 1994. However, if you haven’t yet heard of ACTA you’re in good company. The negotiating nations have been notoriously tight-lipped, to the point where the U.S. requires those reviewing draft provisions to sign non-disclosure agreements. Of note, the fourth and final day of the will include a discussion of the transparency of process–or lack thereof–that has pervaded the process since its inception in 2006.
Not only have these negotiations suffered from a severe lack of publicity for an agreement which, in theory, could very well change they way the Internet is experienced by every computer user in the world; but what draft provisions have accidentally leaked suggest that such concerns are well warranted. The main beneficiaries appear to be a few already-rich industries in a few already-rich countries while placing pressure on the entire world to conform–coercion in the form of very real trade sanctions and political pressures.
While the agreement will change few or no provisions in U.S. or EU law, the practice of one state forcing its IP laws upon another state is duplicitous, especially in the area of IP, which according to the U.S. Constitution and the World Intellectual Property Organization Charter should serve to promote the progress of science, education, and the useful arts–a noble goal to be sure, but one which receives less and less attention in international politics and virtually none in international trade politics.