November 24, 2009 | By Danny O'Brien

The Distraction of Transparency: an ACTA News Roundup

Alerted in part by your letters and calls, Senators have begun to express concern over the secrecy and content of ACTA, while the MPAA, RIAA and other established groups rush to reassure them that ACTA — while of course they know nothing of its actual content — will be good for business and that "transparency is a distraction". Once again, it seems like one incumbent subset of the tech, content, and communications sector is banging the drum for ACTA while claiming to speak for creators, consumers, and everyone else affected in those large and increasingly diverse industries.

Meanwhile, from within the negotiations, it seems that the US proposals for an Internet chapter did not receive instant assent from other countries. Inside US Trade (for-pay article here) reports that the negotiators may not have successfully settled on a text for the Internet chapter of ACTA:

At the Nov. 4 to 6 negotiating round of the Anticounterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), ACTA partners reviewed the United States proposal for an Internet chapter but did not agree to adopt the language, sources said.

If pressure from the Senate successfully reveals the provisional ACTA text, what should you expect to see? Public Knowledge's Sherwin Siy has an excellent piece on how dry diplomatic language can hide major IP changes, while Glynn Moody expands on the ratchet effect that occurs when countries decide to "harmonize" enforcement, but refuse to internationalize fair use or copyright exceptions and limitations.

The contrast between those two processes is evident in a current US Copyright Office Consultation on a proposed WIPO Treaty for the Reading Disabled, when the same groups that declared that it would be just fine that ACTA "codify best practices for enforcement" opposed attempts to codify the world's system for the protection of the public interest, such as for copyright exceptions for the blind, visually impaired and those with reading disabilities.

In the U.S. Copyright Office's WIPO treaty consultation, they are claiming that such a harmonization of standard copyright limitations would "begin to dismantle the existing global treaty structure of copyright law, through the adoption of an international instrument at odds with existing, longstanding and well-settled norms." It makes one wonder: would rightsholders be as flippant about the transparency "distraction" if it was the Treaty for the Blind and Visually Impaired that was an executive instrument being negotiated in secret, and not ACTA?


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