My latest Internet Evolution column, "Copyright Undercover: ACTA & the Web," talks about the absurd tea-leaf-reading exercise that we have to engage in to figure out what's actually happening with negotiations for a far-reaching, secret copyright treaty that could change the face of the web, privacy, creativity, competition, and commerce.
As the seventh round of secret negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) concluded last month in Guadalajara, Mexico, the radio silence on the negotiations was near-total. Like the Kremlinologists of the Soviet Union, we're left trying to interpret the clues that leaked out from beneath the closed door.
Here's what we know: The idea that major copyright treaties should be negotiated in secret is losing traction around the world. Legislators from all the ACTA negotiating countries are demanding that this process be opened up to the press, activist groups, and the public.
In response, trade reps are making the bizarre claim that none of the treaty language will result in major changes to their countries' laws, only the other countries will have to change. (Since all these countries have irreconcilably different copyright systems, someone is lying. My money is on all of them.)
Finally, we have some idea of how ACTA's masters view public participation: During the bland "public meeting" held before the negotiations got underway, an activist was thrown out for tweeting an account of the assurances being mouthed by those on the podium. As she was led away, she was booed by the lobbyists who are able to participate in the treaty from which mere citizens are excluded.
This issue is an embarrassment for all concerned, a naked bit of crony-capitalism that has so much more at stake than mere copyright. It needs to stop. Read on for how it came to this, and what you can do to stop it.