Meet the 42 lucky people who got to see the secret copyright treaty

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is a proposed copyright treaty that contains provisions that criminalize non-commercial file-sharing; require net-wide wiretapping for copyright infringement and border-searches of hard-drives and other devices; and disconnection from the Internet for people accused of violating copyright. The actual text of these provisions is a secret, though, as the treaty is being negotiated away from the UN, behind closed doors; the Obama administration denied a Freedom of Information Act request for it on the grounds that it is a matter of "national security."

The NGO Knowledge Ecology International pressed the US Trade Rep on this, and received a reply stating that 42 DC insiders -- including some reps from activist groups -- have been shown the treaty, after signing a vow promising to treat it as classified. KEI has researched the 42 people and their bios and corporate affiliations. Sherwin Siy of Public Knowledge describes his experiences with the secret treaty:

Our first exposure to any text was on fairly short notice. We were allowed to view a draft of one proposed section as we sat in a room at USTR with some of its negotiators and counsel. We were not allowed to take any copies of the text with us when we left the meeting about an hour later.We were urged to keep any notes we took secure, and not to discuss the substance of what we saw unless USTR confirmed that the other party had also seen the text. The meeting proceeded with USTR discussing each point of the text in turn as we viewed it for the first time and compared the text to existing statutes, trade agreements, and treaties.

We were invited to set up additional meetings or call USTR to confirm our recollections if we wanted to verify what we remembered from the meeting, as we were not allowed to photograph, scan, or (presumably) transcribe the documents. We were told that some edits might be made in the near future to account for various concerns.

A meeting a few weeks later convened a range of people who had been cleared to see the text, and functioned as a roundtable, at this meeting, a slightly altered version was shown, which in some areas was slightly better, in some slightly worse, but without some of the most troubling aspects resolved.

White House shares the ACTA Internet text with 42 Washington insiders, under non disclosure agreements