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Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Suzor on the ACTA Briefing

Last Friday (24 October), the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade held a public forum in Canberra on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) (see Sophia's previous post here). While House of Commons housemates were unable to attend (conference papers, theses, Remix, oh my!), Nic Suzor has an excellent, substantial account of the forum on his blog here. Here's a taste:
Today I attended a briefing session on ACTA hosted by the Australian
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). I felt it was a good meeting,
and I really got the sense that DFAT were interested in public participation.
There was a good deal of frustration on both sides of the fence – participants
expressed serious concerns about the lack of transparency in the negotiating
process, and DFAT consistently repeated that they were bound by confidentiality
agreements and could not divulge details of the draft text of the agreement.
Participants in the Tokyo round of negotiations agreed that the full text of the
agreement will only be made available after negotiations have been concluded and
the text finalised. Understandably, there were a number of members of the
audience who were hesitant to accept any of DFAT's assurances as to the content
of the agreement without access to the negotiation documents.

Overall, whilst I think that the process is far too secretive, DFAT appear
to have gone a long way to make available what they can, and they seem genuinely
interested in hearing from interested parties in Australia. Unfortunately, input
will be limited (blind) until negotiations are complete and the text finalised,
but DFAT assures us that they are considering the issues thoroughly and there
will be genuine opportunity to debate whether or not to sign at the end of the

The big points I would take away from the meeting are:
  • Negotiations will go 'well into 2009';
  • The Commonwealth Government is not seeking to drive domestic changes through
  • Overall, there do not appear to be any great changes to Australia's
    enforcement regime – it appears to be more focused on affecting other
  • The Government intends to limit the effect of any treaty to trademark
    infringement and commercial scale copyright infringement;
  • However, statutory damages for copyright infringement are on the table;
  • Next meeting, in December, will consider internet distribution;
  • Camcording is likely to be criminalised;
  • There's still time to make relevant submissions to DFAT – indeed, they
    release a substantial amount of information once they receive the draft
    proposals before every negotiation round;
  • DFAT has a copy of the Cutler report.

Interested readers should head over to Nic's site to read the rest (and also have a look at the outline of Nic's PhD on 'Virtual environments and digital constitutionalism' - looks as though it will be an immense contribution to this area).

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