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Draft of ACTA trade deal leaks

Earlier this week, a draft of one of my least favorite intellectual-property proposals, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), showed up on the Internet.

I won't say this 56-page, 14.5-megabyte PDF -- posted by a French digital-liberties group, La Quadrature du Net -- makes for interesting reading. The document (also available in transcribed form as a regular Web page) is pretty dull, littered with comments and suggested deletions and additions set off in brackets and italics. But if you're interested in this secretive deal or in the broader issue of your access to digital information, you might want to pour yourself a large caffeinated beverage and read the whole thing.

Some parts of the draft seem to dispel worries about this agreement. On pages 9 and 10, under the "Border Measures" heading, multiple proposals make clear that ACTA would not require searches of your iPod or your laptop by customs for evidence of copyright infringement (though these provisions don't ban that sort of scrutiny either).

Others, however, propose more drastic changes. Page 4 includes a request by the European Union for third-party liability -- if you provide a service somebody else abuses to violate a copyright, you can get into trouble. Three pages later, the E.U. requests that ACTA allow for injunctions against "imminent infringement." Both provisions infuriate ACTA critics.

On pages 29 and 30, the draft encourages Internet providers and rights holders to "develop mutually supportive relationships" to address "patent, industrial design, trademark and copyright" infringement. Problem is, patents are a separate area of intellectual-property law from copyrights and trademarks, and one that is far more of a mess and far more in need of reform. (ACTA's title alone would suggest this document should only cover trademark law, but that limit seems to have been abandoned long ago.)

On pages 31 through 33, interesting disagreements surface. Here, Japan and New Zealand object to including an "anti-circumvention" provision banning tools to undo digital locks, akin to the user- and innovation-hostile provisions of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The draft also features provisions calling for transparency in enforcement that look a little ridiculous next to the obsession of ACTA's authors about keeping this agreement secret. (Note to whatever public-relations genius thought you could stop a document from leaking even as it circulated among dozens of different state departments and foreign ministries: oh, really?) At this point, even the lobbies in favor of this deal say the secrecy around it hurts their cause ... though if you read other things some of them have to say about the state of their businesses, you might wonder if they need any new legal help.

Meanwhile, ACTA seems to be becoming increasingly unpopular overseas. Earlier this month, the European Parliament voiced serious doubts about the deal in a critical resolution that passed by a crushing margin of 633 to 13. The E.U.'s legislative body called for "public and parliamentary access to ACTA negotiation texts and summaries" and a stand against border searches and "three strikes" rules that would have Internet providers disconnect suspected copyright offenders.

In the U.S. government, however, ACTA seems to remain a priority. President Obama praised the agreement by name in a speech delivered days after the European Parliament vote.

Assuming some of you now have a pot of coffee, tea or something stronger at the ready, take a look at the leaked draft yourself and post a comment about what else there looks good, bad or just weird.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 25, 2010; 1:25 PM ET
Categories:  Policy and politics  
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Comments

This is one Obama should have withheld his praise for, and I'm disappointed he'd support it. DMCA is a disastrous way to deal with IP rights (I think it just encourages piracy), and I applaud the EU for recognizing ACTA for the nasty piece of work it is. The furtive secrecy over ACTA reeks of cowardice.

Posted by: krazykat23 | March 25, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

@krazykat23, our politicians will continue to support this treaty because their support has already been bought and paid for by the entertainment industries (MPAA & RIAA), regardless of the detriment to our country or its citizens.

Posted by: washpost86 | March 26, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I can see why Obama would praise this. ACTA would give the power to enforce something that is already underway, ground work that Obama has been laying out, that has continued since Bush. Very little public info is available for the following. The US gov has been spending 10's of billions on strategically located 'internet hubs' at the cost of US American tax dollars, unannounced to us American tax payers. Most people do not know this! They are being built partially under FEMA, and also under the NSA, under the guise of 'protection from cyber-terrorism.' These hubs become top level hubs where all, and I mean all, internet activity in the states is monitored. Besides the ability to finally be able to selectively censor the internet, the monitoring of internet activity, through their hubs and flagging systems, would allow the gov to create a master list of 'suspected' pirates and copyright infringers. ACTA then would give them extreme power to act on the master list thus overriding our own Bill Of Rights without any question or arguments that could arise out of such actions. That is why I feel the Obama administration loves ACTA.

Just FYI, the governmental owned internet hubs ultimately give the acting President the power to 'shut down' the entire US internet grid at the push of a button.

For reference, I do believe that the Washington Post has already reported about these hubs.

Posted by: InternetSlave | March 26, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

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