EFF Dissects ACTA

A pair of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Directors penned an article which delves into some of the issues surrounding the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations.

The Impact of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement on the Knowledge Economy (PDF) was published in the Yale Journal of International Law. Authors Eddan Katz, EFF International Affairs Director, and Gwen Hinze, EFF International Policy Director, call the secret ACTA negotiations a threat “to undermine the balance of IP at the foundation of sustainable innovation and creativity.”

The EFF is concerned as well with the “unprecedented” secrecy around ACTA negotiations. The organization attempted to gain information using freedom of information laws, but only received 159 pages of information, while 1,362 were withheld due to national security concerns.

The U.S. is negotiating ACTA as a sole executive agreement, meaning that agreements “are concluded on the basis of the President’s independent constitutional authority alone.” The authors note that such agreements are not subjected to congressional vote, thus removing “the inter-branch accountability mechanisms essential to balanced policymaking.”

Circumventing the involvement of organizations such as World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), who typically account for “a range of interests” also removes “checks and balances” from ACTA negotiations.

Why should you and I be concerned about ACTA? The EFF has three responses for that question:

…though it was originally portrayed as an agreement to coordinate best practices on border enforcement of physical goods, ACTA will extend to regulation of global Internet traffic.

…implementation of ACTA may require amending U.S. law and upsetting developments in controversial areas of public policy.

…using trade agreements to set global norms for intellectual property enforcement risks distorting national information regulation.

The EFF authors offer the following proposals as ways to improve the transparency and accountability of ACTA:

• Reform trade advisory committees for more diverse representation;
• Strengthen congressional oversight and negotiating objectives;
• Institutionalize transparency guidelines for trade negotiations;
• Implement the State Department’s solicitation of public comments under the Circular 175 procedure

ACTA negotiations are scheduled to resume in January.

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