• Acting Up Against ACTA

last modified March 29, 2016 by strypey

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Update 29/03/2016

The New Zealand government signed ACTA in 2011. In 2012, ACTA was rejected by the European Parliament, but Japan still passed it into law later that year, becoming the first country to ratify the agreement. It's been floating in limbo ever since, and the general sentiment among internet freedom advocates is that the treaty is dead.

Update 31/05/2010:

Linked correspondence between a citizen and David Cunliffe, former Information Technology Minister of New Zealand with regards to open internet and other ideas.

Update 13/05/2010:

Thanks to pressure from the European Union, and the Wellington Declaration sent to ACTA negotiators from the PublicACTA meeting, an official draft of ACTA is now publicly available. The next steps are for anyone that cares about this to familiarize themselves with the issues raised in the Declaration, watch the video of Michael Geist's talk at PublicACTA, and skim through the text of the ACTA draft. One you've got some idea what's really at stake, let's start talking about how we're going to defend our freedom, and an open and uncapturable internet.­

BTW A brief commentary was released by the Social Science Research Council, blasting the BASCAP/Tera-study used by European Trade Commission negotiators to justify ACTA, and claiming that Europe actually has a net economic gain due to illegal file-sharing. So why would the EU support ACTA methods of severely curtailing the freedoms of EU citizens to protect the profits of certain USA-based multinational corporations?

Original research:

Have you heard of the 'Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement'? It's a multilateral trade agreement initiated by the US, outside of existing structures like the WTO and WIPO, and New Zealand is intended to be a signatory. Apparently there was a period of public consultation on it, but somehow it got under our radar.

That may be because of the euphemistic 'anti-counterfeiting' wording in the title, which makes it sound like it's about stopping currency forgery, rather than increasing surveillance and control over people's movements and communications. The ACTA basically proposes to increase border control and enforcement, especially emphasizing control over free exchange of information over the net, to protect corporate 'IP' from unapproved sharing which they demonize with the euphemism "piracy".

Here's the official announcement from the US gov:

Here's some concerning info from the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, who oppose the agreement:

My analysis is that this is the beating stick to go with the carrot of the WTO's TRIPs agreement:

The US entertainment giants are annoyed they can't close down things like the Pirate Bay because of the trifling technicality that are outside of US legal jurisdiction. They are frustrated by their failure to have their proxies in the US government drive through the necessary tools to get around that, through the WTO and WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization). These organizations have been opened up to troublesome input from citizens groups, NGOs and activist networks, who have been more concerned with the use of "intellectual property" to privatize indigenous knowledge, and the use of patents on life to effectively blackmail food growers and healers into using corporate products. Here's some criticisms of TRIPs put out in 2001 by a coalition of NGOs

Some more details on ACTA can be found on the hacker site ArsTechnica, summarizing a memo leaked via WikiLeaks.org describing the likely contents on the agreement:

They conclude with a quote from IP Justice:
"After the multi-lateral treaty's scope and priorities are negotiated by the few countries invited to participate in the early discussions, ACTA's text will be 'locked' and other countries who are later 'invited' to sign-on to the pact will not be able to re-negotiate its terms. It is claimed that signing-on to the trade agreement will be 'voluntary,' but few countries will have the muscle to refuse an 'invitation' to join, once the rules have been set by the select few conducting the negotiations."

Sounds disturbingly like the WTO, the MAI, and the various other anti-freedom trade agreements we were fighting on the streets in the late 90s, doesn't it? 

A few people responded to the above when I posted it on open-publishing news site Indymedia. There was this call-out for artists to make submissions against ACTA in the next round of public consultation:

Also Mark Harris, from whom I initially found out about ACTA wrote:

"Have a look at a wiki I put up at [http://acta.tracs.co.nz/tiki-index.php] where I have posted my submission to MED on ACTA, and the run-around and results (!) I got from an OIA request. Also some links to other sites.
There is no official draft text available at this time, though a preliminary document made its way to Wikilinks a couple of months ago.

I do recommend your raise it with your local candidates and make a reasoned argument about the dangers of excessive IP (and I use the damn term reluctantly) legislation and enforcement."

I'm personally willing to do much more than talk to politicians, but certainly getting some public awareness, making it an election issue, and finding out all we can about the contents of the agreement would be good places to start.  Although the best case scenario would be to stop the treaty completely, this will require a massive international organizing effort. If we can get enough of a campaign going in this country, we may be able to stop our government from signing, or at least water the contents down so much that it doesn't go any further than TRIPs.

Anyone keen to hit the streets to protect their civil liberties and freedom of information?

Kia kaha