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Government Planning "Insider" ACTA Group

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Monday July 28, 2008

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the leaders of G8 countries closed their recent summit in Hokkaido, Japan by encouraging "the acceleration of negotiations to establish a new international legal framework, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and seek to complete the negotiation by the end of this year."  The decision to fast-track the controversial ACTA has led to new momentum for the still-secret treaty as the Australian government recently disclosed that a new round of negotiations will commence this week.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) reveals that alongside the negotiations, officials have been developing plans to establish an "insider" group comprised solely of government departments and industry lobby groups who would be provided with special access to treaty documentation and discussion.  According to documents obtained under the Access to Information Act, the government has been crafting an Intellectual Property and Trade Advisory Group. The initial plans for membership in the group were limited exclusively to 12 government departments and 14 industry lobby groups.  These include the Canadian Recording Industry Association, the Canadian Motion Picture and Distributors Association, and the Entertainment Software Association of Canada.

[full list includes Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network, Canadian Chamber of Commerce Entertainment Software Association of Canada Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies, Intellectual Property Institute of Canada, Retail Council of Canada, Canadian Recording Industry Association, Canadian Motion Picture and Distributors Association, Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters, Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association Underwriters Laboratories, and Canadian Standards Association]

The early membership lists omit several key industry representatives likely to be affected by ACTA, including telecommunications, technology, and Internet companies.  Moreover, there is absolutely no representation of the public interest - no privacy representation despite the obvious privacy implications of the treaty (the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada was not included on the government invitee list), no consumer representation despite the effects on consumer interests, and no civil liberties representation on a treaty that could fundamentally alter Canadian civil rights.

The government documents indicate that members would engage in "in-depth exchanges on technical negotiating issues" and therefore be required to sign confidentiality agreements in order to participate. The decision to create a two-track approach for ACTA consultations appears to have been deliberate.  The same documents discuss the prospect a public track that would include a general public consultation (which was held in April) along with the insider group that would be privy to treaty information.

The secretive Canadian approach stands in marked contrast to other countries. Australia has already launched two public consultations on the treaty - one to consider entry into the negotiations and the second to discuss substantive positions.  Canadian groups tracking ACTA have been forced to rely on Australian documents to glean some insight into the treaty process. Even the public consultative processes have been more transparent outside Canada.  The United States Trade Representative, which managed the U.S. public consultation, has publicly posted copies of all responses it received to its consultation.  Canadian officials have not provided any feedback on the results of its consultation nor any indication if they plan to disclose the responses they received. Moreover, both U.S. and European Union officials have held open meetings with a broad range of groups to shed further light on the ACTA.  There have been no similar meetings in Canada.

With Canadian law enforcement increasing their efforts to address counterfeiting activities - the RCMP recently shut down a major Ontario counterfeiting operation and a British Columbia court just awarded record damages against a distributor of counterfeiting products - there is a growing sense that Canada already has laws sufficient to address counterfeiting concerns.  Few would challenge the need to combat counterfeiting, yet secretive, fast-track negotiations and insider consultations do little to inspire public confidence.

Comments (14)add comment

Zeeman said:

inside group??
So typical of the reichwingers to make "insider groups".
It is time to toss out these bozos who cater to big money.
July 28, 2008

MakesMeSick said:

Simply put
The more I know, the more it makes me sick! Simply put, a collusion of greed.
July 28, 2008

Pat said:

I knew the Conservatives were dishonest but the is beyond anything I could have expected. I can't believe the MPAA and RIAA lobbying has gone this far. They really get whatever they want don't they?
July 28, 2008

Nathan S. said:

What I want to know is
What exactly does our government get out of pushing for this group, I mean we already have c-61 on the horizon, that will basically criminalize every Canadian above the age of 4. Now we have this, is our government honestly trying to turn our country into a police state, what happened to "working for the people" like a lot of other governments are seem to be doing.
July 28, 2008

Maupassant said:

Leo Strauss
I think Harper continues to reveal himself as a hard-core Straussian.

You do realize that for such a program to work the internet would ultimately have to be completely controlled. No more unrestricted blogging or allowing peer-to-peer communication to organized 'unregistered' organizations.

Total control of 'intellectual property' could be the excuse needed to complete a lockdown of society within a decade.
July 28, 2008

Don\'t be fooled said:

ACTA has never been, nor will it ever be about Protection of Intellectual Copyright. It is however about introducing extreme right wing draconian laws, the likes of which have not been seen since the mid 20th Century.

Whilst everybody is arguing about copyright, usage rights and whatever else that these bills throw up. How many people have noticed just how politically powerful these so called protectors of Copyright are?

They are able to intimidate some of the most Powerful Countries in the world. The media companies just do not have that sort of Financial or Political power. So who is underwriting all of this?
July 28, 2008

MCE said:

Comments Deleted
I realize that my comments were very harsh. However, the nonsense being spread via groups such as the BSA and lobby groups is nothing short of power hungry, money motives.

When I read about ACTA and our government's secrecy, I can't help but wonder why our ancestors ever fought in WWII as I don't see much difference between the lies spread to a nation and today's social cleansing.
July 28, 2008

Jansen said:

inside group??
"So typical of the reichwingers to make "insider groups"."

And we all know what a GREAT job the spineless, limp-wristed liberals have done..

July 28, 2008

Rick Graham said:

Booksellers all over again.
Quote: What exactly does our government get out of pushing for this group, I mean we already have c-61 on the horizon, that will basically criminalize every Canadian above the age of 4. Now we have this, is our government honestly trying to turn our country into a police state, what happened to "working for the people" like a lot of other governments are seem to be doing.

Bingo Nathan. I'm kind of surprised that I haven't heard this mentioned much, but the booksellers in England at one time held culture in their hands to be dispensed only to those who could afford it. England decided that this was not in the public interest. Deja vu!
July 28, 2008

JF said:

I've read on Slashdot [ link ] that "Wikileaks has released a new document about the ACTA negotiations".

Should be interesting to have your tought on this.
July 29, 2008

Chris Charabaruk said:

As much as I'm unimpressed by Jansen picking on the liberals, there's a bit of truth in there. As Burke said, "All that is required for Evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing." It might not fit in perfectly, but it sure as hell seems apt.
July 30, 2008

Jboo said:

Written by Don't be fooled
"They are able to intimidate some of the most Powerful Countries in the world. The media companies just do not have that sort of Financial or Political power. So who is underwriting all of this?"

Exactly. IP is just a pretext. I believe that we're seeing human greed on a scale never witnessed before. Have you noticed that every western nation has a Neo-Con at the helm and that these leaders have been elected by thin margins and often using e-voting?. This is the New World Order, a globalized police state. The internet threatens this Order because it lets normal folk see patterns that they can only see by sifting through lots of data.

The US airforce has begun treating the internet as an enemy weapons system, ACTA is just a more saleable way to shut down the internet.
July 30, 2008

13thHouR said:

Without intending to sound like a conspiracy theorist.

We at the NCA normally let the Bilderberg guys just get on with their little games, (Sort of if you don't bother us we wont bother you approach), but they are really taking it too far now. They have been cramming the BSA's non factual data down our throats so much for years now,that so few people even take notice that ACTA is just a thinly veiled Global State where information is precisely controlled by non elected officials who are to be given levels of access that Violate Current international Standards on Human Rights

July 31, 2008

MCE said:

Tomorrow\'s Headline
There may be a new headline coming from every media outlet:

"How the MPAA/RIAA took over the world".

ACTA is nothing short of corporate greed extending itself onto our governments. To borrow a quote from a quote: ' "As Mussolini pointed out, "The first stage of fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism, because it is the merger of state and corporate power." '

Only this time the spirit Mussolini is not alone. We now have the entire G8 summit onboard with this way of thinking. The more I read about ACTA, DMCA, the Canadian DMCA, and selective DRM (ie. U.S. Air Force being exempt) the more my faith in justice, civil rights and trust in democracy erodes.
July 31, 2008

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