My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) begins by noting that next week, the Department of Foreign Affairs will conduct one of the stranger consultations in recent memory. Officials have invited roughly 70 stakeholder groups to discuss an international intellectual property treaty that the U.S. regards as a national security secret and about which the only public substantive information has come from a series of unofficial leaks.
Since then-Minister David Emerson announced Canada’s participation in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations in October 2007, the ACTA has been dogged by controversy over the near-total lack of transparency. Early negotiations were held in secret locations with each participating country (Canada, the U.S., the European Union, Japan, and Australia among them) offering nearly-identical cryptic press releases that did little more than fuel public concern.
The participating countries conducted four major negotiation sessions in 2008 and though the first session of 2009 was postponed at the request of the U.S. (which was busy transitioning to a new president), the negotiations are set to resume later this spring. When they do, negotiators will face two key challenges.