The ACTA Threat: My Talk on Everything You Need To Know About ACTA, But Didn’t Know To Ask

Last week I participated in a conference at American University, Washington College of Law called Beyond TRIPS: The Current Push for Greater International Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights.  Webcasts of the two panels are available online (my panel on TRIPs and ACTA; a second panel on U.S. efforts to increase international IP enforcement).

My 20 minute talk was essentially an ACTA 101: when it started, what it involves, and what may lie ahead.  I've taken a recording of the talk mixed with the slides and posted a video version of the talk on  It is embedded below:


  1. normally open or closed?
    It is interesting that the statement at says: “it is accepted practice during trade negotiations among sovereign states to not share negotiating texts with the public at large, particularly at earlier stages of the negotiation. This allows delegations to exchange views in confidence facilitating the negotiation and compromise that are necessary in order to reach agreement on complex issues.”

    This is quite counter to your own statements and others, who have implied, and even at times said outright that these things are usually much more open. Is there any information that would support or refute either of these positions?

  2. Trade agreements are also normally about trade.

  3. It’s Not “Early” Stage
    Hook, there’s negotiation and there’s drafting new policy — policy that the entertainment industry has not succeeded in getting Congress to ratify.

    This is NEW policy, and it has little to do with trade, as Crade notes. Moreover, when we’ve been involved with trade talks (GATT, WTO), our position has been loud and open, not silent. And the American press covered those “negotiations.” It’s largely silent on this one.

    Thanks to Michael and others raising some hell, I found out about this last week.

  4. need concrete examples.
    What I’d be very curious in knowing is exactly how these negotiations compare to the WIPO treaty negotiations in 1997 or the Berne revisions in 1971. They should certainly be no less open than these were. The very fact that I am asking this question demonstrates how much power precedents can have, and I certainly don’t what any being set that close the process any more than it “normally” is.

    It would also be worth knowing how “open” the US/Australia FTA negotiations were a couple of years ago, or our own NAFTA for that matter. Not having paid a lot of attention to these at the time, I can’t compare myself. I do know that I never heard any criticism of these being secret at the time.

    Basically. If I am going to go to my MP and complain about the secretness of this deal only to have them turn around and tell me this is totally normal (as the web page already does), I need to have evidence in hand to say, no it isn’t, and here’s why. This is where being able to quote specific examples would come in very very handy.

  5. Michael Geist says:

    Is closed the standard?
    In response to the claims suggesting that ACTA’s lack of transparency is standard, see this response from U.S. groups pointing to how this is typically done in most other international fora.

  6. Michael, the MOV version of your speech is DRM-protected and won’t open¹. Is there another version I can download?

    ¹ “A monitor program has been found running in your system. Please, unload it from memory and restart your program.”

  7. Thank you
    Thank you Michael. That link is exactly what we need to be able to talk to our MPs.

    Appendix 1 says this about the WIPO Internet treaties “The two WIPO Internet Treaties (WCT and WPPT) were negotiated in a completely open meeting at the Geneva Convention Center. The public was allowed to attend without accreditation. The draft texts for the WCT and the WPPT were public, and the U.S. government requested comments on the draft texts, which were available, among other places, from the U.S. Copyright Office.”

    And this about the FTAA: “The Free Trade Area of the Americas was a proposed agreement to eliminate or reduce trade barriers across the Americas. In this regional trade negotiation, with other member countries participating, the transparency of the process included publication of negotiating texts and opportunity for comment from civil society. The third draft FTAA agreement text was made available for comment and the negotiation process included a website which solicited and published the views of civil society participants. The FTAA also enabled the hosting of meetings organized by interested groups to organize policy discussions surrounding the negotiations process.”

    All of which is duly footnoted. This is exactly what we need to confront our MPs with. It would seem the standard of openness for both IP treaties and Trade agreements has. to date, been far greater than it currently is for ACTA.

  8. Well, they don’t want these things to be open
    Because if the regular people around the world could get discussions of these things done in PLAIN LANGUAGE that they can understand….. pissed at their representatives would be understatement of the MILLENIUM.
    I would even go so far as to say that it could honestly bring down governments, even the United States government, if the regular people saw how beholden their lawmakers and government officials are to corporate masters.

  9. Rob the Musician says:

    Need a Video Update please
    As we now officially have a draft copy of ACTA, concerned people Worldwide need a video update Michael. Although I’m well aware ACTA is concerned with issues far more widespread, my principal interest is the disturbing threat to “social filesharing”.

    There’s a copywrong revolutioon already happening with so many Countries worldwide passing domestic laws based on outdated, archaic concepts of copyright in comparison to the true power and assistance that internet users can do for artists and Companies by sharing files at no cost to them. We now desperately need a copycorrect revolution to balance the unfair and vicious attack on people who fileshare for no profit, no cost, and no wrong.

    I trust you shall assist.

  10. kaisjed
    Why you don’t post more about the effects of ACTA in our industry