ACTA, a TRIPS down memory lane

Alex Dent sends word of the next international legal nightmare: the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The first thing to say is that, like TRIPS, this agreement is currently being negotiated behind closed doors, without any apparent consultation from any civil society representatives of any of the signatories. But unlike TRIPS, it is an “executive agreement” not a treaty, representing largely industry interests. If it were a WIPO treaty, it would be more transparent. I never thought I would say such a thing.

The second thing to say is that this is an agreement seeking a problem. It is ridiculously broad in scope, seems to have no respect for due process, and looks to me more like an attempt to institute a legal framework for automatically citing and fining non-sanctioned producers, users or distributors of just about anything covered by IP law. That’s just my reading though, check out what the large and growing community of critics say:

ACTA is the predictably deficient product of a deeply flawed process. What started as a relatively simple proposal to coordinate customs enforcement has transformed into a sweeping and complex new international intellectual property and internet regulation with grave consequences for the global economy and governments’ ability to promote and protect the public interest.

If you are a glutton for legalese punishment, check out the detailed analyses of the leaked documents and the pages on the KEI and Public Knowledge sites.

Christopher M. Kelty is an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has a joint appointment in the Institute for Society and Genetics, the department of Information Studies and the Department of Anthropology. His research focuses on the cultural significance of information technology, especially in science and engineering. He is the author most recently of Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Duke University Press, 2008), as well as numerous articles on open source and free software, including its impact on education, nanotechnology, the life sciences, and issues of peer review and research process in the sciences and in the humanities.