ACTA: bad for the innovation economy

September 12, 2008

Haven’t written about ACTA in a little while, but I couldn’t help myself from responding to this piece on the Intellectual Asset Magazine website.

Taking a short-term perspective shared by many large IP owning firms, the author Joff Wild argues:

My view is that countries in which IP is a very valuable asset are perfectly entitled to get together to work out ways in which it can be better protected.

The problem with this argument, and with much of the ACTA proceedings thus far, is that the countries involved have not integrated the competing interests of stakeholders into the negotiation processes in an effective way.

Even if you, like Joff, are not compelled by the claim that ACTA will be bad for global governance, bad for developing countries, and bad for global equality (which it almost certainly will), it is crucial to recognize that many of the most important and innovative firms in the U.S. and Europe are also likely to suffer from this agreement.

Don’t take my word for it, though.

Check out this letter recently submitted by AT&T,, Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), Consumer Electronics Association, eBay, Information Technology Association of America, Internet Commerce Coalition, NetCoalition, US Internet Service Provider Association, US Telecom Ass., Verizon Communications, and Yahoo! Inc.

The letter is addressed to US Trade Representative Susan Schwab and leaves no doubt that these Telecom and IT giants do not appreciate the cavalier IP extremism on offer from the ACTA proponents thus far (all emphases are mine):

We appreciate your objective of protecting the intellectual property of American
rightsholders from infringement overseas. However…there is a very real possibility that an agreement that would require signatories to increase penalties for “counterfeiting” and “piracy” could be used to challenge American companies engaging in online practices that are entirely legal in the U.S., that bring enormous benefit to U.S. consumers, and that increase U.S. exports.

and later:

…because ACTA risks having such an adverse impact on intermediaries operating
in full compliance with U.S. law, the negotiating process should be as open and
transparent as possible

and last but not least:

…given the importance and complexity of the issues under discussion, we urge you
to proceed with the negotiations at a more deliberate pace
. It is critical that there be
sufficient time to ensure that the agreement is in the broad national interest.

Unless Schwab, the USTR office, and other negotiating parties recognize this reality soon, the results of their well-intentioned actions will be bad for the Internet economy, bad for innovative industries, and generally bad for society as a whole.

If, as Wild puts it, ACTA faces “a long and tortuous path to ratification” that might be the best news yet about this half-baked proposition.


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