The ACTA Timeline (or Everything You Need To Know About ACTA But Your Government Won’t Tell You)

Following yesterday's column/post on ACTA, I thought it be useful to develop an ACTA timeline so that the progression of the still-secret treaty can be more easily understood.  This lengthy post builds on a range of articles, blog postings, official documents released under Access to Information, and well-publicized leaks.  While the starting point is October 2007, when there was a coordinated announcement from participating countries, Mark Harris has an insightful post tracing ACTA lobbying to 2004 and the first Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting.  Further, I've uncovered Canadian documents as early as January 2007 that discuss ACTA.

Assuming October 2007, however, the chronology looks something like this:

October 2007 – The United States, European Union, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Canada announce plans to negotiate ACTA.

November 2007 – April 2008 – Governments conduct initial consultations on ACTA.  Australia consults in November 2007 on whether to participate.  The U.S. consults in February 2008.  Canada consults in April 2008. 

The results of the Canadian consultation are not released to the public but an Access to Information request uncovers a report on the results that note that "individual Canadian citizens were generally critical of Canada’s role in the formal negotiation of ACTA." Individual responses cited the lack of transparency associated with the process, the absence of evidence that a new treaty is needed, the exclusion of developing countries from the negotiations, and the concern that ACTA might undermine Canadian law.

March 2008 – Negotiating countries hold preliminary meeting on ACTA.  The outline of ACTA is confirmed with six main chapters: (1) Initial Provisions and Definitions; (2) Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights; (3) International Cooperation; (4) Enforcement Practices; (5) Institutional Arrangements; and (6) Final Provisions.  The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights chapter has four sections: civil enforcement, border measures, criminal enforcement, and the Internet.

Meanwhile, RIAA submits recommended ACTA provisions to the USTR.

June 2008 – First round of negotiations held in Geneva on June 3rd and 4th.  Canadian speaking notes for the meeting are available here.  Participating countries are Australia, Canada, the EC, European Union Presidency (Slovenia), Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, and the U.S.  The meeting is chaired by the USTR and hosted at the U.S. Mission in Geneva. 

Canada submits two "non-papers" on Institutional arrangements (Chapter 4 of ACTA) and procedural matters. The institutional arrangements paper call for the creation of an "ACTA Oversight Council" that would meet each year to discuss implementations, best practices, and assist other governments who are considering joining ACTA.

The U.S. and Japan provide draft language for the Border Measures section.  The proposals call for provisions that would order authorities to suspend the release of infringing goods for at least one year, based only on a prima facie claim by the rights holder.  Customs officers would be able to block shipments on their own initiative, supported by information supplied by rights holders.  Those same officers would have the power to levy penalties if the goods are infringing.  Moreover, the U.S. would like a provision that absolves rights holders of any financial liability for storage or destruction of the infringing goods.  A delegation also raises the prospect of a provision addressing disclosure of information:

With a view to establishing whether an intellectual property right has been infringed under national law and in accordance with national provisions on the protection of personal data, commercial and industrial secrecy and professional and administrative confidentiality, the competent authorities have detained infringing goods, shall inform the right holder of the names and addresses of the consignor, importer, exporter, or consignee, and provide to the right holder a description of the goods, the quantity of the goods, and, if known, the country of origin and name and addresses of producers of the goods.

Many countries suggest amendments including de minimum rules and the removal of certain clauses.  Moreover, the EU has proposed a specific provision to put to rest fears of iPod searching customs officials by excluding personal baggage that contains goods of a non-commercial nature.  It provides:

“Where a traveler’s personal baggage goods of a non-commercial nature within the limits of the duty-free allowance and there are no material indication to suggest the goods are part of commercial traffic, each Party may consider to leave such goods or part of such goods outside the scope of this section.”

July 2008 – Second round of negotiations held in Washington, DC on July 29 – 31st.  Participating countries are Australia, Canada, the EC, European Union Presidency (France), Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Switzerland, Singapore, and the U.S.  (official press release here). Discussions focus on border measures (second time), civil enforcement (first time), as well as non-papers on institutional issues and international cooperation.

The U.S. and Japan supply draft text of the civil enforcement provisions.  They call for the availability of civil judicial procedures for the enforcement of any intellectual property right, though some countries would like this limited to copyright and trademark.  Parties to the treaty would be required to implement procedures that include the availability of statutory damages for copyright and trademark infringement (some countries would like this to be optional, while the U.S. would like the damages provisions expanded to patent infringement) as well as court costs.  The statutory damages provisions include:

1. Each Party shall provide that in civil judicial proceedings, its judicial authorities on application of the injured party shall have the authority to order the infringer who knowingly or with reasonable grounds to know, engaged in infringing activity of intellectual property rights to pay the right holder damages adequate to compensate for the actual prejudice the right holder has suffered as a result of the infringement, taking into account all appropriate aspects, inter alia, the lost profits, the value of the infringed good or service, measured by the market price, the suggested retail price, unfair profits and elements other than economic factors or other legitimate measure of value submitted by the right holder.

2. As an alternative to paragraph 1, each Party may establish or maintain a system that provides:
(a) pre-established damages, or
(b) presumptions for determining the amount of damages,

sufficient to compensate [Option US: fully] the right holder for the harm caused by the infringement.

Additional required remedies include orders to destroy the infringing goods without compensation.  The proposals also call for significant mandated information disclosure, including ordering alleged infringers to disclose information regarding any person or third parties involved in any aspect of the infringement (some countries want this deleted and others are seeking to preserve privacy protections).  That provision states:

Each Party shall provide that in civil judicial proceedings concerning the enforcement of intellectual property rights, its judicial authorities shall have the authority to order the infringer to provide, for the purpose of collecting evidence, any information [Option J: in the form as prescribed in its applicable laws and regulations] that the infringer possesses or controls, [Option J: ,where appropriate,] to the right holder or to the judicial authorities. Such information may include information regarding any person or persons involved in any aspect of the infringement and regarding the means of production or distribution channel of such goods or services, including the identification of third persons involved in the production and distribution of the infringing goods or services or in their channels of distribution.

October 2008 – Third round of negotiations held in Tokyo, Japan on October 8th and 9th (the meeting was scheduled to last 2 1/2 days but wrapped up early)(official press release here).  Participating countries are Australia, EU, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, the U.S., Japan, and Canada.  Countries agree that it is too ambitious to have two more meetings in 2008 and settle for a single, longer meeting later in the year.

Day one focuses on criminal enforcement.  The U.S. and Japan supply draft text of the criminal enforcement provisions.  The proposal would extend criminal enforcement to both (1) cases of a commercial nature; and (2) cases involving significant willful copyright and trademark infringement even where there is no direct or indirect motivation of financial gain.  The treaty would require each country to establish a laundry list of penalties – including imprisonment – sufficient to deter future acts of infringement (specific language is "include sentences of imprisonment as well as monetary fines sufficiently high to provide a deterrent to future acts of infringement, consistent with a policy of removing the monetary incentive of the infringer.") 

Moreover, trafficking in fake packaging for movies or music would become a criminal act as would unauthorized camcording.   The fake packaging provision provides:

Each Party shall provide for criminal procedures and penalties to be applied, even absent willful trademark counterfeiting or copyright or related rights piracy, at least in cases of knowing trafficking in:
(a)    counterfeit labels affixed to, enclosing, or accompanying, or designed to be affixed to, enclose, or accompany the following:
(i)    a phonogram,
(ii)     a copy of a computer program or other literary work,
(iii)    a copy of a motion picture or other audiovisual work,
(iv)    documentation or packaging for such items; and
(b)     counterfeit documentation or packaging for items of the type described in subparagraph (a); and
(c)    illicit labels affixed to, enclosing, or accompanying, or designed to be affixed to, enclose, or accompany items of the type described in subparagraph (a).

The anti-camcording language says:

Each Party shall provide for criminal procedures and penalties to be applied against any person who, without authorization of the holder of copyright or related rights in a motion picture or other audiovisual work, knowingly uses an audiovisual recording device to transmit or make a copy of or transmits to the public the motion picture or other audiovisual work, or any part thereof, from a performance of the motion picture or other audiovisual work in a motion picture exhibition facility open to the public.

Day two focuses on the civil enforcement provisions (for the second time). 

November 2008 – Canadian government re-launches ACTA consultation, treating it as ongoing.  Marie-Lucie Morin, then the Deputy Minister of International Trade (and now National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper), warns Minister Stockwell Day that "should there be no consensus among the ACTA partners to make the ACTA text public, the Department will need to develop options to address Canadian stakeholders concerns about the lack of transparency in the ACTA process."

December 2008 – Fourth round of negotiations held in Paris, France on December 15 – 18th (official press release here). Participating countries are Australia, Canada, the EC, the EU Presidency (France), Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, and the U.S.  Canada supplies the draft text for the Institutional Arrangements chapter, which is the lead issue for discussion on day one.  Later in day one, parties continue negotiation on criminal enforcement (first raised in Tokyo in October).  Day two includes further discussion on criminal enforcement in the morning and institutional cooperation and enforcement practices in the afternoon. 

Day three focuses on Internet issues. The U.S. provides a "non-paper" on the Internet issues section with each delegation to answer questions on the state of their domestic law.  The paper discusses Internet copyright provisions, liability for Internet service providers, and legal protection for digital locks and raises questions about damage awards, liability for hosting or storing content, and the extent to which the anti-circumvention provisions mirror the U.S. approach.

February 2009 – U.S. seeks delay in March 2009 negotiation session to allow for transition at the USTR.

March 2009 – The European Parliament passes a resolution calling for the public availability of all ACTA materials. The U.S. government denies requests for access to ACTA documents on national security grounds but promises to review its approach.

To be continued. . .

Update: Spanish language version of this post available here.


  1. Linux memory
    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. pat donovan says:

    it’s the broadcast treaty that worries me..

    ‘found’ material can be re broadcast and copyright’ed.


  3. Maynard G. Krebs says:

    If the RIAA can permit this in China, why not in the rest of the world?

    Google is today launching a free, ad-supported music service in China, with the backing of more than 140 record labels, including the Big 4. The service sounds like exactly the sort of thing that people have been calling for since the Napster days: a search engine linked to a trove of music files, supported by advertising……..

  4. From treaty to law?
    If all the parties discussing the treaty come to an agreement, what is the process (in Canada at least) for laws to be implemented? Is it a ‘gimme’ (we have to pass these laws or we face trade sanctions) or are they further discussed by government?

  5. #

    Jail time for non-commercial infringement will generate considerable opposition, but it is the Internet provisions that are likely to prove to be the most controversial. At the December meeting, the U.S. submitted a “non-paper” that discussed Internet copyright provisions, liability for Internet service providers, and legal protection for digital locks

    jail time for non commercial infringement
    Well that’s it for the internet
    say good bye to youtube as you know it
    all of the net

    digital locks crap was done in secret cause they know also its a sham
    just like bill c61 was widely hated they DON’T want it public cause they know it goes poof the second it does with these two provisions in it

    After all when Hollywood people have a higher security clearance then most humans ever get you know why now.

    member that news article about how IP in obama administration goes to the backburner
    what a crock a crap with ACTA it is the burner

    as i have said if they can make the internet provider liable
    then here is the way life is:

    Canadian tire manufactures hammers
    those hammers now and then get used in crimes too!!!!
    WE need then to make stores and corporations accountable for the products they sell or services they give is what Hollywood says.

    Obama knowing this rational has ear marked billions to construction knowing that with no hammers they cant build anything, thus the cash all goes to more corporate schills that will sit around in piles a taxpayers money.

    hockey sticks, baseball bats
    spoons ( in jails)
    knives of all sorts
    chairs ( steve ballmer )
    you name it can be used in crimes so we have to get them all BANNED now and made illegal to use

  6. Excellent Summary prof!

  7. Marc Maes says:

    Belgian trade campaigner
    The Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission is now also organising a meeting “to inform and consult interested parties about the negotiation of a plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)”.

    “The purposes of the meeting will be to:
    1)Inform stakeholders about the ACTA concept, purposes and the negotiation process so far;
    2)Receive comments from stakeholders about their views (expectations or concerns) regarding ACTA.

    Relevant information about the ACTA negotiations can be found on the Trade website. A detailed written state-of-play of the negotiation should be available at the same location before the meeting date.


  8. Mark Harris says:

    ref Belgian Trade Commissioner
    Yeh, we had one of those ‘update’ meetings in NZ in November last year. As I recall, one of the government officials put “copyright infringement” and “terrorists” in the same sentence, and not in a good way. Good luck with that.

    Michael, I see you have a CC logo at the bottom of the page but it just says “some rights reserved”. Could you elaborate on the type of license?


    Mark harris

  9. CC Licence

    Just click on the link – it’s 2.0 Attribution licence (admittedly an older licence).


  10. Mark Harris says:

    Re CC licence
    Ah, thanks. I had to go to another article to do it. The “Related Items” section was over-running the logo and so it didn’t appear to have a link (Camino on OSX Leopard)

  11. Mark Harris says:

    Can you please correct the note in the first paragraph? *David* Harris is the guy who wrote Pegasus Mail. *Mark* Harris ( is the guy who writes On the Gripping Hand 😉

  12. Yagotta B. Kidding says:

    Murphy gets no respect
    I do so love the “alleged rightsholders can block importation at no cost to themselves and with no risk of liability for a year” part.

    They either have given no thought to potential for abuse by anyone but themselves or else great confidence in selective enforcement.

  13. @CHRONOSS: article about obama…
    Obama has taken on several cabinet members who were lawyers directly from organizations that are all about copyright infringement persecution. I don’t know which article you read, but it was written by someone who failed to look at the facts on that one. He pulled people right off their committees. So far I am halfway happy for the dude, he hasn’t screwed up nowhere near as much, but this was one of his decisions that wasn’t made for the people. Bye bye Interblags…

  14. ACTA – the Basis for Global Fiscal Reform or Global Government ?
    As an economist I have a slightly different take on this. And that is – that ACTA is puposefully being built outside of the UN and WIPO guidelines with commercial entities both interdicting and then executing policy with the power to instruct individual members constitutionally appointed Departments. If Global governments cede their overide power to contrrol imports/exports to what would appear to me to be a commercial entity, the next step has to be Global Governance and single currency.

    This is similar to the adoption of the West German DMark by East Germany when the wall came down. The resulting loss forced the united Germany to take on the Euro rapidly to rebudget foreign deficit.

  15. Jisung Kim says:

    Korean translation of this article
    Hello. I’m a member of IPLeft, a Korean NGO specialized in IPR issues. I found your article very helpful for IPLeft’s activities. I personally posted a summary of ACTA on IPLeft homepage last september. I was looking for an update for Korean readers. I may say I was very lucky finding your article. You can see the translation at

    Thanks alot,

  16. RIAAtarded says:

    Lost cause
    Great article been follow you blog for awhile now. It was the only way to get legit info on c-61 when the government tried to pull a swifty and ram that down our throats hoping no one was looking.

    Few things are disconcerting in here, for starter why all the secrecy? If your actions are legitimate then full disclosure is needed. How else can you come up with a balanced and fair system. How do they figure that a universal paper will be accepted in all these countries? Especially considering the language they are trying to use. The totalitarian approach rather then setting it up as a guideline is doomed to fail.

    I’ve still never got a good answer to what the difference is between me capturing my TV shows with the DVR or me downloading them. Short of the fact one they want to make illegal the other is not. I still have the digital content. If i was printing my own counterfeit copies then sure that is fraud and I’m profiting of the labours of others but lets be realistic most of us download because we can. The internet has gives us access to content that isn’t necessarily available in Canada.

    The way they want to calculate loses though is insane. If i download it it is a lost sale and should be billed accordly? Then they want to extrapolate damages based on seeding it to other? Firstly your assuming if this wasn’t available in this format I would have paid for it. The stuff I support I still do and will continue to do so however over 90% of all thing I grab current I never would have purchased in the first place. The rest I may have rent so really if blockbuster wanted to come after me then they might have a case.

    Really it is time for the entertainment industry to change it’d business model to be more in keeping with the technology and the times. Give the consumer better alternative rather then law that only make them resentful.

  17. lure
    ISPs should be held accountable because they facilitate file sharing by carrying information.
    Microsoft facilitates because they provide the operational sytem.
    Intel for the processor.
    Sony for camcorders.

    You are allowed to think this does not make sense.
    It is not the one that carries information that should be held accountable.

    What about all that information that ISPs carry? Interesting.
    I would love to control that. But first, I would try to invent a good excuse.

    I want names.

    None of what I read gave me names, except here:

    White House shares the ACTA Internet text with 42 Washington insiders, under non disclosure agreements

    No names, a lure, and lots of people speaking about what they can’t see and don’t know.

  18. Smilingbuddha says:

    As an artist, I want to receive compensation for my work. All humans want that. But I am not so blinded by my own wants to not see something of greater importance happening here.

    I think that everyone continues to have a small view of the maneuvers of government and corporate interest. We are directed to focus on the small picture. Even those situations that draw our attention like ACTA, still allow a misdirection of intention. We need to examine the end goal. Of course, without being on the inside the end goal can only be surmised.

    Tomk stated in an earlier post that as an economist he believed ACTA was a step toward globalization of currency and governance. This is definitely where we should keep our attention. Fight the fight, but never lose sight of the real agenda. If we do, we will be finding ourselves with a whole lot less freedom than currently suggested by ACTA.

    Wait, the microchips are not far behind.