Depending on who you ask, a draft of the global Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) released by the Federal Government in Australia today is either a welcome measure which will benefit the the nation’s creative industries — or a draconian control proposal which will cut down our civil liberties.
The document is a proposed agreement which will establish international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement. Quite a few nations have been involved in its development — ranging from the United States, Japan, the European Union, Singapore — and Australia.
In a statement, Arts Minister Simon Crean was wholly positive about the deal, claiming that the agreement — which could affect the way copyright laws work in Australia — would benefit employees in creative arts industry positions.
“ACTA will provide for the same strong and balanced approach to copyright enforcement that Australia has at home,” Crean said. “Internationalising these standards will support our creative arts industries — in film, music and other areas — and result in more sustainable jobs in the arts.”
Trade Minister Craig Emerson agreed. “ACTA will create a more secure trading environment for Australia’s creative and knowledge – intensive industries by ensuring copyright and trademarks are enforced in a number of important foreign markets,” he said.
Emerson was also of the same belief as Crean that the agreement would protect and benefit creative art industry professionals. He said additional professionals, industries and entities would also be protected – computer programmers, writers and broader Australian brands.
He added that the agreement would see other countries adopting the enforcement standards that Australia already had in place.
“ACTA reflects these laws and standards, which we now want to see adopted by other countries,” he said, adding that the deal would address the pirated goods market: “ACTA is important because we are concerned at the scale and growth of the global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods.”
But digital rights political party Pirate Party Australia was not impressed by the agreement.
“The entire process and outcome has been undemocratic and illegitimate. Transparency and any meaningful interaction with the community was actively circumvented,” said Rodney Serkowski, party president. “There has been a wanton disregard for the conventions of a true democracy, with only hollow platitudes to transparency and community engagement being made.”
Swerloski said that while commercial counterfeiting was not on, he did not agree with the process of unelected officials overseeing what he said was a concealed decision-making process. “To accept this agreement, is to accept that process as legitimate,” he said.
The Pirate Party noticed changes between the latest draft and that of the informal Predecisional draft of the agreement dated January 18 – which was reportedly leaked on Wikileaks back in March.
“The text has shifted dramatically from the initial documents revealed by Wikileaks when this secretive treaty was first exposed,” said Serkowski. “In some respects it is a slightly better document than previous leaked drafts, with some sections being watered down — however at first glance we don’t perceive this draft as being any more benign”
“Changes in the document have only occurred due to significant pressures from NGOs, political parties and concerned lawmakers across the world making countless declarations and objections to both the content and the process based on information gathered from leaked documents,” said Serkowski.
The latest ACTA draft comes after a 10 day negotiation that started late September in Tokyo. The final copy of the agreement is expected after a few issues are addressed by final talks – which Emerson expects to be finalised “in the coming weeks”.