New ACTA copyright treaty dodges the UN, poor countries and activists

Michael Geist sez, "The World Intellectual Property Organization may be best known for the Internet treaties that led to the DMCA, but in recent years groups like EFF, KEI, and Public Knowledge has helped to open things up and move toward a Development Agenda that better balances international intellectual property policy.

That progress may be threatened by the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which officials now acknowledge is designed to exclude WIPO, developing countries, and NGOs."

Moreover, the criminal provisions go well beyond clear cases of commercial infringement by including criminal sanctions such as potential imprisonment for "significant wilful copyright and trademark infringement even where there is no direct or indirect motivation of financial gain."

Jail time for non-commercial infringement will generate considerable opposition, but it is the internet provisions that are likely to prove to be the most controversial. At the December meeting in Paris, the US submitted a "non-paper" that discussed internet copyright provisions, liability for internet service providers, and legal protection for digital locks.

While the substance of the treaty will remain fodder for much debate, Canadian officials recently hosted a public consultation during which they acknowledged the true motivation behind the ACTA. Senior officials stated that there were really two reasons for the treaty. The first, unsurprisingly, was concerns over counterfeiting. The second was the perceived stalemate at WIPO, where the growing emphasis on the Development Agenda and the heightened participation of developing countries and non-governmental organisations have stymied attempts by countries such as the United States to bull their way toward new treaties with little resistance.

Given the challenge of obtaining multilateral consensus at WIPO, the ACTA negotiating partners have instead opted for a plurilateral approach that circumvents possible opposition from developing countries such as Brazil, Argentina, India, Russia, or China. There have been hints of this in the past – an EU FAQ [frequently asked questions] document noted that "the membership and priorities of those organisations [G8, WTO, WIPO] simply are not the most conducive" to an ACTA-like initiative – yet the willingness to now state publicly what has been only speculated privately sends a shot across the bow for WIPO and the countries that support its commitment to multilateral policymaking.

The ACTA Threat To The Future Of WIPO