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Posts Tagged ‘ACTA’

If we sign ACTA what are we agreeing to?

Posted by on September 29th, 2011

This Saturday in Tokyo, according to reports, New Zealand will sign a controversial trade agreement, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (otherwise known as ACTA) targeting counterfeiters and copyright infringers.

The big questions are what are we signing up to? Will it mean we have to change our laws? And why hasn’t government informed the community of its contents and that we were going to sign it until 2 days before it happens?

A media release issued this afternoon by the government says this:

Cabinet has formally approved New Zealand’s signature of ACTA.  As is normal practice with international treaties, a separate decision to ratify ACTA will be made subsequently, the Minister said.  This would require the Government to make some minor amendments to the Copyright Act 1994 and the Trade Marks Act 2002 and would be subject to the usual ratification process, including public consultation and scrutiny by Parliament.

What minor amendments? What will change?

I have written many posts about ACTA. Here and here. Calling for transparency. That did seem to happen for a while. But now it appears we are moving to sign it. Where has been the public discussion on where the agreement is at?

Will signing ACTA result in New Zealand being required to include a disconnection from the internet clause in our copyright laws? This is despite repeated denials from Commerce Minister Simon Power. And make it extremely difficult to remove. And what else will it require?

Will ACTA will foreclose future legislative improvements in response to changes in technology or policy. Read this post and worry.

One report this week  has said:

Representatives of the U.S., Japan, Australia, Canada, the E.U., South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and Switzerland will be at the signing ceremony for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), according to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Countries that have “completed relevant domestic processes” will sign ACTA, the ministry said in a press release. The agreement, which would create international standards for protecting intellectual property, will be open for signature until May 1, 2013, the ministry said.

Public Knowledge, a digital rights group, said the latest version of ACTA contains more protections for consumers than previous versions. Still, the group urged U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration to “make it clear” that ACTA does not change U.S. law, including provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protecting ISPs and websites from copyright enforcement.

I’ve still got significant concerns.

  • Agreements negotiated in secret don’t make for good law or public policy
  • ACTA contravenes a number of fundamental rights
  • The major parties in ACTA (US and Europe) still don’t agree about whether their laws might need to change, even though provisions in it are incompatible with existing laws

I’d like to hear from our Trade Minister on these issues. And from our Commerce Minister on the domestic implications for Kiwis and our own intellectual property. In the meantime,  until we know what the implications are NZ shouldn’t sign up to it.

Our Govt has its head in the sand on copyright issues

Posted by on June 5th, 2010

Sometimes it takes me a while to feel as if I understand an issue. Especially one that involves the digital world.

When I’m trying to get my head around something I try to take it back to a principle. Is it fair? Who to? Is it too complex? Will it work? Is it fostering innovation and creativity? Is it where we want to be heading?

Copyright is one of those issues.

Copyright in 2010, has become a brand, or a code. The prevalence of illegal downloading both in NZ and globally is a very real and important issue. The balancing act between protecting the rights of creators of content and allowing and encouraging access to information and material is a delicate and increasingly tricky issue which is currently exercising the minds of parliaments across the world.

Intellectual property, who owns it, who should have access, how they should have that access and what should be the penalties for infringing the rules around that access are all very live issues being hotly debated.

There’s a bunch of international treaties and agreements currently being negotiated where intellectual property features large. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and more recently the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) are just two. There is intensive lobbying going on, driven largely from the US.

It seems that the big elephant in the room is who’s interests are being served.

I’ve just come across this piece on The Hill which could cast some light on what is really  going on behind the scenes.

Three key US tech industry groups have urged a rethink on the US position on ACTA. The Consumer Electronics Association, TechAmerica and the Computer & Communications Industry Association plan to oppose the current draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

Though the groups favor copyright enforcement, they worry the agreement will not include copyright exemptions that currently benefit some technology companies under American law.

The agreement may lack a “fair use” standard that allows using copyrighted content in limited circumstances. Google, for instance, relies on this exemption to store Web content in its search engine memory.

Wikipedia defines “Fair use” as a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as for commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching or scholarship.

The lack of “fair use” could make American tech companies vulnerable to repercussions abroad, these groups say.

“We would expect the administration to be as concerned as we are about the existing trend of foreign countries imposing unjustified civil and criminal liability on U.S. technology companies and their executives,” the groups wrote.

ACTA has drawn widespread criticism as serving corporate interests. So just who are these corporate interests? Who do they serve and why do they have so much influence? And what principles do those interests serve?

And does our government really understand these issues?

In the Commerce Select Committee on Thursday I asked Commerce Minister Simon Power whether the government was considering a wider review of copyright issues in the light of all the controversy around Section 92A. “No” was the response. They just want their re-write of S92A passed.

I think that’s short-sighted. And not serving the interests of NZ creators and our emerging digital industry. As well as the public interest.

Hat tip @Tom_Watson

Credit where credit’s due on ACTA

Posted by on April 19th, 2010

This is one of those times when the Opposition says the government’s done a good job.

Which I think it did last week in chairing the secret talks on ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) and gently pushing for transparency. I think they’ve listened to the people who are raising serious concerns about the secret trade talks and the rights of citizens.

After more than a year of sustained pressure, the countries negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) decided that the time is right to release the draft text of their work.

The official announcement came yesterday after the conclusion of negotiations in New Zealand.

“There was a general sense from this session that negotiations have now advanced to a point where making a draft text available to the public will help the process of reaching a final agreement,” says the official announcement.

That’s good news for NZ, as our govt was pressing for transparency and the talks took place in Wellington.  Tim Groser, in a media release, said NZ had taken account of strong public interest and the talks would now be more accessible to the public. The text will be available from on Thursday 22 April.

The next meeting takes place in June in Switzerland and the aim is to complete talks this year.

Trade Minister Tim Groser also announced late last week that New Zealanders’ views will be taken into account when the Government makes any decision about whether to join ACTA.

The ACTA trade deal is to set a new benchmark for enforcement of intellectual property rights but critics of the secrecy have argued it will infringe on digital rights, particularly those of non commercial peer to peer file sharers  and impose draconian rules aimed largely at protecting the interests of copyright holders such as movies and music companies.

The trade agreement is expected to include a “three strikes” policy, requiring internet service providers to block people who repeatedly breach copyrights. Labour opposes the disconnection from the itnernet which is proposed in NZ’s copyright law.

And finally, the publicACTA event a week ago before the Wgtn secret talks did make a big difference I think in raising public, media and general awareness among the negotiators of the public interest in these talks. Credit also to InternetNZ who organised them.

We will be looking at the text closely when it is released and watching progress.

Breaking news on ACTA talks

Posted by on April 17th, 2010

Breaking news on Canadian law expert Michael Geist’s blog:

The New Zealand round of ACTA negotiations concluded earlier today with participants promising to release the draft text next week. This obviously represents a major new development that reflects the mounting global pressure for greater transparency that built in the weeks leading up to the negotiations.

This is positive news. Just came across it. Will have more to say over the weekend. Hopefully the publicACTA (Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) conference last Saturday had some influence along the resulting support from thousands of people around the world who signed the publicACTA petition.

Congratulations to everyone involved. Transparency is a first and important step in ensuring that a treaty on preventing international counterfeiting for commercial use is negotiated in public  and does not result in criminal prosecutions against private citizens who breach copyright for non-commercial purposes.

Why NZers should beware of ACTA

Posted by on April 12th, 2010

Michael Geist, Canadian law expert, says NZ is one of the most important countries in the world on copyright policy.

He talks about the enormous influence being wielded behind the scenes by the big copyright organisations, in the recording and movie industries and questions why they have so much power given that so many artists are now controlling their own works online.

Geist is in NZ because of the secret talks being conducted in Wellington this week, called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

If you’re interested in this issue listen to Kathryn Ryan interview Michael Geist on RadioNZ’s ninetonoon today. A good interview.

Opportunity knocks for a bit of leadership #ACTA

Posted by on April 11th, 2010

Will try to keep this short and snappy. I’m feeling hopeful this week that the Government will show us it’s got some balls.

After all, we have a fairly major international treaty (trade agreement) a bit hard to know what to call it, being negotiated in our capital.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (and don’t be fooled by its name) is being negotiated in secret by the US, Canada, Japan, the European Union, South Korea, Mexico, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand.

It claims to be about counterfeiting of goods. That’s a valid thing. But it’s not about counterfeiting. It’s about intellectual property and about placing limits on how the internet is used by citizens in all those countries to share information and create content.

Today I called on the government to show some courage and demand that the ACTA talks are made public. Most of the participating countries claim they want transparency.

Yesterday I attended a public conference organised by InternetNZ which drew together more than 100 NZ stakeholders alarmed that their rights and those of all NZ citizens will be compromised under this secret deal.

They released a declaration and a petition. I advise you to have a look. And to ask questions. And to sign.

Everyone reading this post, your families, your friends and colleagues could be affected.

No case been provided for this treaty.

New Zealand’s greatest strength (aside from our environment and our primary production sector) is our intellectual capital. That includes our capacity to be innovative and resourceful as well as creative.

We must nurture, protect and enable these strengths. We mustn’t trade them away and compromise our ability to be innovative by allowing a trade agreement that limits and threatens our creators. As well as the people who want and need to access material for non commercial use.

So I say to the NZ Government listen to what you are being told by your citizens and stand up for the public good.

I can’t put it better than the comment posted by  commentator Colin Jackson  on my last post Pay attention New Zealand:

What a pity international governments don’t seem to be able to make an agreement to ration finite resources like tuna, atmospheric carbon or fossil fuels, but instead devote their time to making an international agreement enforcing controls over something that costs no resources to copy.

There are a growing number of parliamentarians in the countries represented at the ACTA secret talks who are raising concerns and calling for transparency and for the true reasons for ACTA to be discussed in an open environment. It would be good to see those concerns expressed across our parliament.

PS: Not short but maybe snappy?

Pay attention New Zealand

Posted by on April 9th, 2010

Concern is mounting about the content of an international trade agreement on copyright being negotiated in secret at a conference in Wellington next week. All New Zealanders should pay attention.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) talks are ongoing. It’s Wellington’s turn next week. They’re being held in secret because dominant countries the US and Japan are refusing to allow the draft text of negotiations to be made public. Why is that?

ACTA is essentially about toughening the enforcement of a range of intellectual property rights. But what is the actual issue? Who needs protecting? And where is the public interest?

The NZ Government is calling for transparency. That’s good. It’s one of a a number of countries doing the same. But it doesn’t have enough clout. Concern has been mounting around the world over recent months about what these talks are about. Largely it’s been confined to the internet community. But it’s going mainstream, and it’s in our faces next week.

Last night, the TV3 website reported on a leak from Canada which suggests that Border guards would be allowed to comb through passengers’ personal computers, iPods and MP3 players looking for copyright protected material.

The leak says that the draft agreement – to be negotiated over five days in Wellington – would also place more responsibility on internet service providers to become content police who prevented users from sharing pirated content.

Punishment proposed for repeat offenders included a ban from the using the internet for up to 12 months.

Copyright legislation poised to come to the NZ Parliament does not go nearly as far as this. But it does include a provision to terminate internet accounts for repeat copyright infringers. The NZ Labour Opposition opposes this. For good reasons.

There are many questions to be answered around the ACTA talks on copyright and intellectual property.

For instance who will bear the cost of increased copyright enforcement? Who gains from it? And when will New Zealand do some economic analysis on what the net impact on NZ of ACTA would be?

In the meantime, the the digital economy bill was rushed through the UK parliament yesterday before the election. It goes a lot further than NZ’s proposed copyright laws.

Under the terms of the bill, internet service providers will be obliged to send letters to any of their subscribers linked to alleged infringements.

Copyright holders will be able to apply for a court order to gain access to the names and addresses of serious infringers and take action against them while ISPs would be able to suspend accounts of offenders.

A wave of opposition to this Bill is growing momentum. This is an interesting analysis

Why are law-makers heading down this route? It flies in the face of reality. What lies behind the Digital Economy Bill and ACTA?

The best thing the NZ Govt could do is to release its negotiating position to its citizens. Let’s all be in this discussion. Transparency is by far the best policy.


ACTA is proposed as a plurilateral trade agreement for establishing international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement. It is being negotiated between the US, Canada, Japan, the European Union, South Korea, Mexico, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, the negotiations have extended beyond trade and physical counterfeiting to potentially cover non-commercial infringement of copyright material by ordinary citizens and issues of digital rights management.

For more info see here

Govt lip service to transparency on ACTA?

Posted by on March 25th, 2010

A couple of days ago, PC World ran a piece where Commerce Minister Simon Power was quoted saying NZ officials were ‘pressing for greater transparency’ in future Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negoitations.

He disputed media claims that the negotiations were being held in secret, saying agendas, reports and summaries for each of the seven previous ACTA rounds had been published on the Ministry of Economic Development website.

“As with any negotiation, however, it is important that when working towards an agreement on complex issues, participants are able to exchange views in confidence. For this reason, the participants in ACTA have agreed that the actual text under debate should be kept in confidence between the participants.”

ACTA did not focus on the private, non-commercial activities of individuals and would not impact on the internet experience of the average New Zealander, Power said.

“ACTA will not involve cutting internet access, and internet service providers will not be made to filter or monitor their networks.”

I’ve searched the National Party website for a media statement saying how and when he will do that, but can’t find anything. Am a bit unsure what he means. I guess it’s easy to say “I’ll press for more transparency” and then come back and say”Well I tried my best but it didn’t work”.

And today, writing in Computerworld, Juha Saarinen asks whether ACTA is harmless or a horror? He writes:

Is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) a harmless attempt to quietly harmonise intellectual property laws and enforcement around the world, or a threat to civil liberties that will require fundamental legislative changes to implement?

The views of officials and lobby groups differ widely on what ACTA entails.

ACTA negotiations will be held in Wellington 12-16 April at the Intercontinental Hotel, according to a leaked agenda document. There is widespread concern in New Zealand and abroad about what is contained in those discussions and who is pushing what negotiating positions. New Zealand is not a big player, but we have considerable amount at stake.

InternetNZ’s Johnathon Penney says the spirit of the treaty will have to be adhered to under international law, and New Zealand can’t enact legislation that contradicts ACTA. As it stands, ACTA is essentially an extension of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA, according to Penney and introducing it will alter New Zealand law, especially the Copyright Act.

Simon Power needs to show New Zealanders how he will attempt to achieve more transparency in these talks. Not just pay lip service.

Will ACTA overtake our copyright laws

Posted by on March 22nd, 2010

Sometime in the next couple of weeks the revised Section 92A of the
Copyright Act will have its first reading in the House.

It took a long time for the government work out that it needed to revise S92A, then longer to decide how.

The big question now is, after all that work, involving a lot of participation by passionate stakeholders in the copyright debate, will it be superseded by  international law that takes the copyright issue out of the hands of our sovereign state.

In mid-April, at a secret location in Wellington,  the latest in a
series of negotiations of the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will occur. The intentions of ACTA are causing growing consternation around the globe.

Like the exact location of the meeting, the text of ACTA is a secret. We don’t know for sure what’s in it, but the latest leaks suggest that a goal of ACTA will create an extra-governmental body that effectively controls copyright law around the globe, with little input from the governments or the people
they represent.

The leaks suggest a new organisation would be set up to manage ACTA
after it was implemented, tasked with continuing to update ACTA’s rules
– sort of a parallel organization to WIPO which is part of the UN.

Michel Geist, one of the prominent international proponents of
transparency in the ACTA talks has factually blogged about the latest
leak here.

The big question is, having gone through the intense public discussion
of establishing a new law on copyright, will it be overtaken or subsumed
if New Zealand signs up to ACTA?

There’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge yet in the ACTA negotiations. But the difficulty of these issues and their potential to cut across national sovereignty highlights the need for transparency and public input.

New Zealanders need to be reassured that our negotiators have New Zealand’s best interests at heart, not just those of international copyright-holding organizations.

In a previous post I called for the NZ position on ACTA to be made
public to show real engagement and good will and that there is nothing
to hide.

I think that’s even more imperative now.

I’ve also put the following written questions to Simon Power:

Curran Clare : At what venue will the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade
Agreement be negotiated in Wellington between the 12-16th of April?

Curran Clare : Has the Minister refused to name the venue for the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in Wellington next month? If so when will he make the venue public, given the high degree of public interest in the issue

Curran Clare : Does the Minister support the European Parliament’s call to have full access to ACTA documents?

Positive signs on ACTA from NZ Govt; next step release NZ’s position

Posted by on March 2nd, 2010

Pleased to see the NZ Govt has today called for submissions on ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

Commerce Minister Simon Power is calling for submissions on a range of intellectual property proposals in the digital arena to help develop the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

This is the third round of public consultations on ACTA, and New Zealand will be hosting Round 8 of the ACTA negotiations in Wellington from 12-16 April.

There’s been quite a lot of leaked information about ACTA in recent days. Here’s the latest from Michel Geist, based in Canada, who has the most comprehensive analysis.

NZ’s Nat Torkington has done an analysis of the NZ positions in the leaked document.

Indications are that ACTA is a less a trade agreement and more a treaty about intellectual property.

There’s also information out there now that those pushing for ACTA not be transparent are the European countries, Japan and the US. It’s good that NZ’s position has been for transparency.

It would be even better if NZ released its official position to New Zealanders before the negotiation round in Wellington in April. That would show real engagement and good will and that there is nothing to hide.

We need greater transparency and freedom

Posted by on January 26th, 2010

Transparency in trade negotiations and internet freedom have taken centre stage internationally which I believe has important implications for NZ.

The New Zealand negotiators for ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, have now said publicly that “New Zealand is calling for greater transparency in negotiations”. In December, MED held two briefings on ACTA, these slides have been made available.

ACTA is currently being negotiated in secrecy. New Zealand is participating in the discussions along with Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States. Red Alert posted on this before Xmas.

The NZ Herald reported in November that while the US government claims ACTA is about counterfeiting rather than major changes to copyright law, and shouldn’t be subject to public scrutiny, leaked versions of ACTA discussion papers seemed to indicate that copyright lobby organisations may have in fact turned treaty negotiations to suit their own agenda.

At the moment it seems like many of the countries are saying they’re calling for more transparency but they have to get the others to agree. The big question is, is this a tactic, to make it look as though they take it seriously, or is it real?

 The next round of ACTA negotiations kick off today in Guadalajara, Mexico today.  Transparency is on the agenda in Mexico, but it remains to be seen whether it will eventuate. It remains to be seen whether our negotiators from MED and MFAT mean it.

In the meantime, ‘Internet Freedom’ has now become a playing card in US foreign policy, in particular with regards to China and other oppressive regimes.

This has immediate implications for New Zealand, with regards to termination of people’s internet connections for copyright infringement which is included in the revised version of Section 92A of the Copyright Act and is considered by some to be included in ACTA drafts.

In her recent and significant speech on Internet Freedom, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:

“the freedom to connect – the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other. The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly in cyber space.”

I’ve been writing quite a bit about this and thinking about the wider issue of the right of our citizens to equitably access the internet (which implies that they shouldn’t be cut off from access)

Hillary Clinton also said:

“The private sector has a shared responsibility to help safeguard free expression. And when their business dealings threaten to undermine this freedom, they need to consider what’s right, not simply the prospect of quick profits.”

 The full text of Hilary Clinton’s speech is here.

I’ll be watching how the ACTA negotiations play out.