The first time I heard about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was in a news report on EURACTIV.com about how something called ACTA had suffered a defeat in the EU parliament. I figured it was one of these anti-file sharing, increase-internet surveillance type bills you hear about here and there in the media and through online discussions. Measures of that nature have been threatened and in some cases passed over the past decade with limited coverage and even more limited understanding among the general public.
A little further reading and it turns out that report out of parliament was just the tip of the iceberg. ACTA isn’t a European Union initiative, it turns out – ACTA is an international trade agreement which claims to create international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement throughout the participating countries.
Sound boring? It gets exciting. This trade agreement is being shopped all over the world in an attempt to convince nations to sign on because this will be the agreement that brings effective and up-to-date control over counterfeit goods, generic medicines, as well as “piracy over the Internet”. The terms to achieve these goals are being laid out during rounds of negotiations that have been going on since 2008.
Such an agreement that addresses so many areas of our lives, surely both we and our representatives should be able to read the terms and policies as they take shape? Nope. The negotiations are being handled through closed door sessions, the proceedings are kept secret. Since 2008 some information has leaked and a handful of corporations and organizations have been allowed to look over the treaty. Or so it seems according to some reports.
I have plenty more to learn about this treaty, but one thing that already has me concerned, is the power of this treaty, and the dangerous secrecy with which it is being pushed. In the coming weeks I intend to interview individuals who have insight and knowledge into this treaty and see what more can be learned. This will begin this week with a podcast interview with Michael Massnick of techdirt who has been following ACTA for the past few years.