“The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is on a fast-track process as rich nations hope to wrap it up by the end of the year. Unfortunately for everyone who cares about the outcome, it’s midway through September, and no draft text has yet emerged,” Ars Technica reports.
“The secrecy and the delay have inspired many conspiracy theories, none helped by leaked sets of corporate “wish lists” and public comments making outrageous demands.”
Leaked documents suggest the treaty could require Internet service providers to monitor all consumers’ Internet communications, interfere with fair use of copyrighted materials, and criminalize peer-to-peer electronic file sharing.
Previous rumours have also claimed ACTA decrees searches of digital devices and computers as travelers cross borders, and seizure of those devices if customs agents ‘suspect’ they contain music or other media sourced from file-sharing networks, for example.
Now, 100 civil liberties organisations (complete list here), including EF and and others have written to ACTA negotiators to demand the world’s public be given the right to read the draft agreement and have their say.
“Why in the world are trade negotiators keeping the treaty a secret?” asks Robert Weissman, director of Essential Action. “Are they worried about counterfeiters influencing the negotiations? What possible rationale is there for secrecy — other than to lock out the public? Intentionally or not, a treaty to prevent unauthorized copying may easily go too far, and undermine important consumer interests. That’s why it is so important that this deal be negotiated in the light of day.”
“The lack of transparency in negotiations of an agreement that will affect the fundamental rights of citizens of the world is fundamentally undemocratic,” the organisations stress in their joint letter. “It is made worse by the public perception that lobbyists from the music, film, software, video games, luxury goods and pharmaceutical industries have had ready access to the ACTA text and pre-text discussion documents through long-standing communication channels.”
Organizations signing the letter include: Consumers Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Essential Action, IP Justice, Knowledge Ecology International, Public Knowledge, Global Trade Watch, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, IP Left (Korea), Australian Digital Alliance, The Canadian Library Association, Consumers Union of Japan, National Consumer Council (UK) and Doctors without Borders’ Campaign for Essential Medicines.