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Secret multilateral negotiations on ACTA commencing today

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July 28, 2008

Business lobbyists and politicians will be meeting today to discuss the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, according to an internal memo released today by Wikileaks.

The proposed agreement would criminalize copyright and intellectual property offenses. Under ACTA, Internet service providers would be required to filter illegal transfers of content and help the government track down the people downloading it. Border patrols would gain the authority to seize and destroy copyrighted materials at the border.

Also, governments would be able to charge individuals with copyright-related crimes even if rights holders do not request that charges be pressed. For comparison, in the U.S., victims of robberies and domestic assaults must press charges against their assailants — the government can’t press charges without compliance from the victim.

The meeting on ACTA will take place in Washington, D.C. and run from today through Thursday.

The memo does not say who the participants in the meeting will be — it is addressed to “ACTA Negotiators” and is from “Concerned business groups operating in ACTA nations.”

According to the anonymous leaker, the document was leaked “To shed light on a very secretive treaty that is being rushed to conclusion for the end of the year.”

The whistle-blower continues:

There are good reasons to improve anti-counterfeiting measures, but this document suggests it has become broadened to favor and entrench rights holders to the exclusion of other civil rights such as privacy and fair judgment on relevant costs and fees normally determined by a competent judge.

Most of the online outcry appears to be originating in Canada. The Toronto Star yesterday ran an article about the secret meeting and ACTA’s implications. The article detailed plans by the Canadian government to create an “insider” group “comprised solely of government departments and industry lobby groups that would be provided with special access to treaty documentation and discussion.”

Membership would be restricted to lobbyists and government departments:

The initial plans for membership in the group were limited exclusively to 12 government departments and 14 industry lobby groups. These include the Canadian Recording Industry Association, the Canadian Motion Picture and Distributors Association, and the Entertainment Software Association of Canada. The early membership lists omit several key industry representatives likely to be affected by ACTA, including telecommunications, technology, and Internet companies.

Internet service providers and other non-rights holders whose businesses will be impacted will not be included in the talks.


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