Report – ACTA Stalled Amid War Between Australian ISPs and Copyright Industry

While on the surface, it appears to be a standard report on the ISPs refusing to comply with the idea of being the copyright police, a section of a very interesting report suggests that the ACTA negotiations have been stalled.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

It may be an old story being repeated over and over again in Australia, but a report from the Courier Mail in Australia reiterates an issue that has been going on for months. However, the report reveals something else that may be seen for anti-ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) organizations and activists as quite an achievement – insiders of ACTA are suggesting that ACTA has been delayed as a direct result of world-wide opposition.

It first details the tension between the Australian Internet Service Providers and the copyright industry. Australian ISPs openly refuse to just cave to demands of a separate industry that claims to be facing significant losses (contrary to numerous studies that suggest otherwise) due to file-sharing. ISPs have been saying for months that if abuse is being detected on their networks, it’s up to the copyright industry to show what is going on so that action can be taken place. Old news? Perhaps. Just a month and a half ago, we reported on a very similar report which points to two separate studies that backs up the Australian ISPs position.

So what is there to report this time that’s different? One would have to read further down the article to catch the following:

A “three strikes” proposal is understood to be part of talks on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, to which Australia is a party.

ACTA, with a third round of talks in Tokyo next month, has been slated by the G8 for conclusion by the end of the year.

But groups who have been briefed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade say talks have stalled amid international public outrage at the secrecy of negotiations, and the leaked draft proposals.

A DFAT spokesman said it was “not appropriate for the Government to speculate” whether a three strikes regime would be part of a final treaty.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement has been notoriously secretive. It’s been so secretive, it has sparked a lawsuit in the United States by several well-known activist organizations not just limited to internet related issues. So, any word on ACTA is quite significant. While the discussions are still slated to be wrapped up by the end of the year, it seems public outrage is actually having an impact on the discussions behind closed doors.

It may be easy for ACTA to merely be seen as a digital technology related issue, but ACTA goes well beyond file-sharing, p2p and even people being searched at the borders merely because they have a “digital storage” device. As we noted earlier this week, hundreds of organizations called for ACTA to be made public. A sample of a list of grievances towards the elusive agreement also includes the following:

+ Interfere with legitimate parallel trade in goods, including the resale of brand-name pharmaceutical products;

+ Impose liability on manufacturers of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), if those APIs are used to make counterfeits — a liability system that may make API manufacturers reluctant to sell to legal generic drug makers, and thereby significantly damage the functioning of the legal generic pharmaceutical industry;

+ Improperly criminalize acts not done for commercial purpose and with no public health consequences; and

+ Improperly divert public resources into enforcement of private rights.

While issues related to pharmaceuticals is an issue, one of the major issue sparking public outrage is related to technology. Who can blame them when the chances of being affected by the technological restrictions are far more likely to affect them in the first place? How many are involved with the sale of generic drugs compared to the number of people owning a music player or a subscription to internet access?

Clearly, after reading this report, it seems that opposition to the secret agreement between countries is working. Whether or not this actually delays things beyond by the end of the year is another story. For now though, such news may be quite encouraging for the opposition to ACTA – and likely encourage the expansion of public outcry in the process.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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