ACTA Surprise! More Secret Meetings (this time in D.C.)

July 30, 2008

I.P. Justice has linked to a freshly leaked memorandum addressed to “ACTA Negotiators” from unnamed “Business Associations.”

The memo articulates positions consistent with the draconian enforcement measures sought by many content owners throughout the furtive ACTA process. In both its scope and tone, it also resembles quite closely the earlier submissions of comments by groups such as the RIAA, the International Trademark Association (ITA), and others.

The memo underscores the extent to which these organizations expect that the wealthy governments of the world will foot the bill for enforcing their private rights. It’s my understanding that in U.S. law, the financial and legal burden of enforcement of private rights traditionally falls on the rights holder. I’m pretty sure that’s why the government isn’t usually the one to sue you if you trespass on your neighbor’s backyard. In the brave new world envisioned by these business associations, suspected infringement of copyrights or trademarks would be sufficient to justify search, seizure and other forms of state intervention.

From where I’m sitting, that sounds an awful lot like a seriously invasive form of corporate welfare.

However, the memo also reveals one detail that the United States Trade Representative, the Canadian government, the European Commission, and other negotiating parties have declined to make public: the negotiations for ACTA are continuing – in secret – right now in Washington, D.C.!

In off the record conversations with government officials, I had been led to believe that late July was a target date for the second round of ACTA talks. However, there has been some misdirection and sleight of hand about exactly when and where these meetings would happen.

Turns out the ACTA negotiators from the U.S. (presumably members of the Office of the U.S.T.R.) do not mind passing such information along to “Business Associations” in a more timely and open manner.

As an interested citizen who submitted my own comments to the USTR about ACTA back in March, I find the USTR’s preferential treatment of corporations who support ACTA irresponsible and reprehensible.

The terms of the proposed agreement are too important for the future of the digital economy, global trade, the Internet, and international legal precedent for the negotiations to continue in secret.

As I’ve said before, this is no way to build a “new consensus” on the governance of trade in informational goods. Instead, it is a shameless tactic to railroad bad policies based on flimsy evidence and dubious intent.

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