Pirate Party Urges Australian Government to Drop ACTA Support

Even as the Pirate Party petitions the Australian government to rescind its ratification of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), party leaders admit that it's probably too late to cause a sea change on that front.

ACTA, which has been signed by Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States, is a secret treaty that is supposed to combat counterfeiting and piracy through cooperation among the international community with a set of "best-practice guidelines for enforcement," along with the legal framework to support these practices.

Australia signed ACTA in October last year, and invited submissions on the terms of reference until January 27. The treaty, which was negotiated in secret around the world, is getting a lot of scrutiny in the wake of protests in the United States over SOPA and PIPA. The Australian government has not set a date for a public hearing on the issues, but once these are heard it is expected to ratify the agreement.

Pirate Party secretary Brendan Molloy has been highly critical of the process, saying that they have been hindered in submitting any formal submission until the formal text was released in November of last year, well after the signing of the agreement.

"Our information to initially criticize the agreement was based on leaked drafts. This also means that we are unsure who was consulted (and how they were consulted) when ACTA was being drafted," the party told ZDNet Australia. "The whole development process of the agreement has been farcical. Completely opaque, secretive and without evidence to back up its relevance. It is a horribly flawed agreement," Molloy said.

Molloy further claims that public consultations held in Sydney in 2010 with members from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Customs and the Attorney-General's Department were held in secret.

"None of them wanted their names revealed, and made it quite clear to us that as 'public' as these consultations were labeled to be, they would prefer it if we did not broadcast the words spoken in the room, reiterating that in America we would have been required to sign [a non-disclosure agreement]. This was repeated countless times as I continued to take notes," Molloy said.

In its submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, the Pirate Party alleges that the agreement was drawn up in consultation with groups representing the movie and music industry, without any consultation from groups that could have represented the concerns of consumers and the general public.

"The trade agreement is illegitimate and should be rejected on this reason alone. To accept this agreement is to condone the undemocratic process in which it was forged. The Australian government is elected to serve the Australian people, not the interests of multi-national media and pharmaceutical executives."

The Pirate Party goes on to say that Australia can withdraw from the agreement even though they have already signed it. If they do not, then the next step is to fight against it before it comes up for a vote in June before the European Union Parliament.

Source: ZDNet Australia

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