ACTA: Sorting Through The Spin

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement has always been the exception to the general rule for international negotiations – closed participation rather than open, secretive rather than transparent – so it should come as no surprise that the negotiations have come to an end in an unusual manner.  The only thing that is absolutely clear is that there will be no further rounds of negotiation as the latest round in Japan is being described as the final round of talks.  Other than that, the conclusion seems open to considerable speculation and spin.

From the U.S. perspective, the negotiations are done and ACTA is nearly a reality. USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk has been quoted as saying that there are solutions to even the toughest issues and that nearly all parties have agreed to them.  Another U.S. official admitted that there were still as many as six issues without agreement, including two on border measures and another from the Internet chapter. The EU has been even less supportive, with an official quoted as saying “we’ve come a long way but we must still close the remaining gaps without which there will be no agreement.”  Moreover, several European Parliament Members are already calling for a halt to the deal.  Meanwhile, Japanese officials have acknowledged that there are issues that require further discussion back home and that “in that sense we haven’t gotten agreement.”

So what is going on?  My guess is that this is consistent with the speculation leading up to the Japan meeting where it was apparent that the U.S. was determined to conclude a deal before the Congressional elections.  There were no meetings scheduled beyond Japan, with the U.S. making it clear that this would be the final round before it even began (and Japan proud to host the final round). 

The U.S. spin on the meeting therefore has the feel of a country ready to say that ACTA was concluded no matter how many issues remain outstanding.  Moreover, given how the U.S. has caved on numerous issues over the past few meetings in order to get a deal, it seems likely that they did more of the same in Japan, watering down their ACTA demands in an effort to achieve consensus.  As with prior meetings, the reality will slowly emerge in the comments from officials and the text itself – the text may be released on Wednesday and both the U.S. and the EU are hosting briefings on Thursday.


  1. Quick Question
    Does ACTA have the ability to be modified after the fact? If so then this could be pushed through before the US mid-terms and finished later.

  2. That was probably the most convoluted, over-complicated, corrupt, sneaky, and just plain stupid series of negotiations that I have ever witnessed. Thank you Geist for reporting on it while the media put their heads up their anal cavities and ignored it. If the final treaty turns out to be as equally convoluted, over-complicated, and just plain stupid as the process that created it, then we can hope that it will quickly collapse under the weight of its own absurdity and be scrapped faster than you can spell ACTA.

  3. @Eric L. – Actually its as far as the copyright types can go jail time, suspension from the internet, monitoring of private citizens by private corporations, the only thing they left out was the death penalty for infringement. I am pretty sure they would have thrown that in also to make examples if they could have. Whats neat is this is as far as they can go from a legal perspective. If it is put into law it will do the opposite of what they are expecting, it will speed the failure of their industries, it will cause a backlash against them, and it will probably cause people to take notice of copyright issues. Over the next few years copyright will slide back to what it is supposed to be. Something to promote the progress of the arts and sciences…

  4. Like Eric said, what truely makes ACTA unbelievable is how it came in to be. It goes beyound simply lacking transparency, it was created in secret squirrel, hidden meetings. They intentionally excluded the UN, other countries and any groups (Industry, consumer or otherwise) they thought might pose oppositions to their agenda. This tells me they knew it was intended to be heavily anti-consumer from the start. Once passed, then they’ll pressure those “excluded” countries to join or face penalties. Agree to legislation they were intentionally excluded in the creation of. China alone, holds the power to destroy the US economy, good luck with pressuring them. The whole thing is a mockery. The entire process should have been open to all countries (Even those who are not UN members) but moderated by the UN from the start as it ultimately affects every country in the world.

    Unfortunately, ACTA should more accurately have been labeled something like the AAPIPC (American Agenda for the protection of Intelectual Property and Copyright). I tried to end it with an “AA”, but couldn’t come up with a good one. Originally this was nothing more than another American-centric trade agreement. Now, I truely hope that when the final text is released later this week that the EU royally scr3w3d the US!!! The US really needs to get put in their place and called out for the bullies they are.

  5. At this point anything could come out on Thursday. Did the EU get the GI they demanded? If so how will that spin back in the USA with ACTA then having to go through congress? That will be a mess and probably a bill killer. If they did not get the GI clause then there was little or nothing they would have to conceded on the US demands.

    Spins aside, I think this will be nothing but an embarrassment for the US. And good if it is, their attempt to export their laws at no expense to their own is arrogance that should not be rewarded.

  6. GIs
    At a guess, I would say the EU got the language they wanted since the US was desperate to get them on board but, as with so much other stuff, I suspect US will simply not comply. They want everyone else to do as they say but, as you say, they don’t want to have to change anything at home, even after the disaster DMCA has become. I agree ACTA will ultimately be a source of embarrassment for the US.

    ACTA is nothing more than yet another breakwater trying to stop a tsunami. As Doctorow says, you will NEVER kill copying and pi$$ing your customers off with draconian laws will only make worse.

    We should have a poll on what the outcome was. 🙂

  7. If I were the EU, I’d be outraged at this leak to the MPAA.

  8. The MPAA are incompetent as they are stupid

  9. The first Domino …
    Well, it begins. The Mexican parliament just passed a resolution to withdraw from ACTA. This will give even more of an excuse for the EU to pull out, watch for that. It would be a wonderful Christmas gift to the artists and consumers of the world if by the end of this year ACTA is no more than a memory. In retrospect I think the biggest error of this effort was to try and do too much, by expanding the scope to cover so many aspects it made the deal not palatable to more participants than it could have. Again, greed is it’s own downfall.

  10. @IanME: “The MPAA, has “aparently” seen the unrealesed document. ”

    So know we know for sure who was pulling the strings.


  11. Heh, I needed a good laugh … thanks RIAA!
    @RIAA – Re: ACTA final draft – “The digital text is bare-bones because governments believe we are at time when you shouldn’t get locked into a static solution.”

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