On Thursday, 26 European Union member states plus the EU will sign the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Although the treaty ostensibly deals with counterfeit physical goods, it includes provisions related to digital goods. The Treaty was negotiated in secret; it began during the Bush Administration and was finalized under the Obama Administration.
In October 2011, these eight countries signed: Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and the U.S. However, in the U.S., treaties must be ratified by the Senate. Obama claims that ACTA isn’t a treaty but is, instead, an “executive agreement” and thus does not require ratification.
Technologists have been vocal. ComputerWorld in the UK has been scathing:
ACTA, is by its very nature a trick – in fact, a double trick. It has been agreed between a self-selected group of countries outside any international organisations, and without any democratic oversight. Indeed, everything was discussed behind closed doors, and the hundreds of millions of people whose lives will be directly affected by it were not permitted to offer their views on anything at any point.
Strangely, though, the industries that make contributions to politicians’ re-election in some countries, or who avail themselves of lobbyists who work very closely with national governments in the rest, were not only given access to drafts, but were allowed to contribute to the process._
It also says member states will have to offer “effective legal remedies” to ensure that anti-theft measures – such as the Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection on purchased music files – cannot be circumvented.
The clause could potentially mean that Apple, for example, would have to disable its MP3 recording facility in iTunes – because it could be used to remove the DRM protections from a piece of music purchased through its iTunes store.
More than 10,000 people have taken to Poland’s streets to protest the signing of an international treaty activists say amounts to internet censorship.
Don’t expect a lot of US coverage of this latest ACTA signing.