ACTA negotiations began in 2007 between a few countries. Since then several corporations and a couple consumer groups have also been allowed to sit at the table. First the countries;
the United States (Office of the US Trade Representative, USTR), the European Community, Switzerland and Japan were first. A short time later; Australia, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Mexico, Jordan, Morocco, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Canada joined the negotiations.
Some of the countries missing from the negotiation’s member list appear on the U.S.’s “Priority Watch List“; Algeria, Argentina, Canada, China, Chile, India, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand and Venezuela. The Priority Watch List is part of the annual “Special 301 Report” that the US government compiles to highlight, “the global state of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement”.
I found it interesting that Canada appears on both the US Priority Watch List, and is part of the ACTA negotiations. The 2009 Special 301 Report, which added Canada to the list, first thanked them for their IPR commitments, but then stated that Canada has, “not delivered on these commitments by promptly and effectively implementing key copyright reforms”. The report seems to pressure Canada to increase IPR enforcement by, “giving its customs officers the authority to seize products suspected of being pirated or counterfeit without the need for a court order”.
I can’t imagine that the Canadian people appreciate having their neighbor to the south twisting their government’s arm by blacklisting them to pass laws that would remove civil liberties at the borders. More disturbing is that this may be an indicator that ACTA will include a provision giving all member countries a loophole to disregard their court’s involvement prior to search and seizure actions.
The US Constitution’s 4th Amendment protects US residents from unreasonable search and seizures.
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
If language in the Special 301 Report is an accurate indicator, ACTA would be in direct conflict with language in the 4th Amendment.
So what about the corporations? I found a post on the not for profit non governmental organization, Knowledge Ecology International’s (KEI) site that provides some answers. In order to obtain the information KEI submitted a FOIA request to see which companies had signed the USTR’s NDA. The list includes representatives from;
Business Software Alliance, Google, eBay, Verizon, Dell, Intel, News Corporation, Sony Pictures Entertainment and, Time Warner.
Clearly these companies are interested in finding out how their business models may need to change, but do they care how ACTA will effect their customers?
Finally, the KEI post also shows that Public Knowledge and The Center for Democracy and Technology consumer interest groups have signed the USTR’s NDA. Unfortunately, due to the NDA they cannot disclose the ACTA text. However, once the text is made public they will be able to help consumers understand what it means to them.