[Update:  I attended the full day’s meetings on Sat. The Wellington Declaration that we collaborated is up on the PublicACTA website, and has already attracted nearly 8000 signatories.]

First off, apologies to anyone expecting me to be on the ball with getting information onto this blog in a timely fashion at the moment. Hopefully the details below - ruthlessly pirated from the PublicACTA website - have already reached you by some other means. That’s the beauty of the internet as we know and love it - many-to-many communication, many different services and channels by which important information can get from those who know, to those who need to know. On the internet, information acts like water - it flows as directly as it can downhill from ’speaker’ to ‘listener’, when it comes up against blockage (whether legal or technological) it just flows around. This can be seen at the technical level in the way ‘packets’ of data bounce from host to host, and in the way musical and video works flow around the dams put up by entertainment corporations, through peer-to-peer sharing systems like BitTorrent.

This freedom and transparency implicit in the design of the internet protocols has served the public well. For example, whereas freedom of the press once belonged to those who owned printing presses, the proliferation of open-publishing websites (following the pioneering work of collaborations like Indymedia) offers anyone who can afford to type up an article at an internet cafe the ability to publish to a global audience. This democratization of publishing has got to be a good thing in a society that claims all its members have equal rights to freedom of speech, but there’s a catch. These same freedoms have been a persistent nuisance to governments, whose backscratching backroom deals and authoritarian ambitions can now be publicly exposed without the flattering lighting their PR machines would prefer. It’s also been a pain in the proverbial to corporations, many of whose unsavoury business practices have been exposed resulting in loss of public goodwill and reduced profits. The same government and corporate elites have looked on in horror as online culture evolved models for open governance, and participatory culture, that threaten to put an end to nation-state monopolies on public decision-making and management of common goods; and multinational corporate monopolies on the provision of goods and services as profitable commodities.

 

I have no doubt that the potential transitions of power over decision-making and resource distribution to decentralized, community-centred institutions - like the transition from control of energy by fossil fuel corporations to community-scale renewable energy; or the transition from industrial farming of food and textiles as global commodities, to local, organic supply chains - will be better for humanity, for the myriad other species and natural services our existence depends on, and for the sustainability of the biosphere as a whole.  It’s just a matter of convincing the state-corporate dinosaurs that the internet asteroid has arrived, their time as lords of the Earth is over, and no amount of  anti-democratic legislation or heavy-handed enforcement is going to prevent their eventual demise.

If you can make it to the PublicACTA meeting in Te Whanganui-a-Tara this Saturday, or participate over the net, here are the details:

“What is ACTA?

ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement or ACTA) is a controversial international treaty being negotiated in a series of secret meetings.

ACTA is proposed as a plurilateral trade agreement for establishing international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement. It is being negotiated between the US, Canada, Japan, the European Union, South Korea, Mexico, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, the negotiations have extended beyond trade and physical counterfeiting to potentially cover non-commercial infringement of copyright material by ordinary citizens and issues of digital rights management.

What is PublicACTA?

PublicACTA has been organised by InternetNZ so that the public can critique the known and likely content of ACTA proposals.  It will be held on Saturday, 10 April 2010, two days ahead of Round 8 of the ACTA negotiations on 12-16 April in Wellington.

The aim of PublicACTA is to seek improvements to the Agreement and enable people to connect and discuss the issues. At PublicACTA an agreed statement will be produced that the public and interested organisations can sign up to, to be delivered to New Zealand Government negotiators and politicians

Who should attend?

Anyone concerned with rights on the Internet and potential of new technologies, and the risks in trading these away in international negotiations.”

Filed April 8th, 2010 under Uncategorized

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