The current round of ACTA negotiations wrap up later today in Seoul, Korea. Having spent the first day focused on the now-leaked Internet provisions and the second day on the leaked criminal provisions, negotiators will spend this morning discussing whether they should make the draft treaty public. Many countries continue to face pressure on the transparency issue, with KEI posting a public letter to U.S. President Barack Obama this week on the issue. Past indications are that there is a split – some countries favour making the draft available immediately, while others prefer ongoing secrecy until the treaty is completed. Compromise positions apparently include allowing individual countries to make available text for which they are responsible.
At this stage, even ACTA supporters should be supportive of greater transparency. First, everything seems to leak anyways, so the substance of the treaty is already broadly known. Of course, there are specifics that have been shielded from public view, but there is enough out there to have generated an enormous backlash. Second, ACTA is quickly becoming so broadly discredited that it will be nearly impossible to garner public support for the treaty. "The secret copyright treaty" is hardly a selling feature for a treaty that may be dead-on-arrival in the minds of citizens around the world. Third, it is time for countries to make transparency a condition of participation. I have my doubts about the treaty as a whole – the recent Internet leaks should make it a non-starter from a Canadian perspective – but even if the substance is put to the side, governments should not be supporting secretive copyright talks.
The talks will end at 12:30 (Seoul time) with the release of a joint statement describing who participated along with a generic statement indicating discussions focused on Internet enforcement, criminal provisions, and transparency matters. It will conclude by indicating that the next round will be hosted by Mexico (most likely) in early 2010. But on a day devoted to secret talks on transparency, governments should drop the diplomatic language and be prepared to open up or get out.