Write Up of WFUD ACTA Panel

I was at the event that Nate Anderson describes in this Ars piece. I have held back from writing about it because I just found the experience intensely frustrating. It was a great event, don’t get me wrong, but Steve Metalitz’s participation, as Anderson accurately describes, was just infuriating. He would contend, by turns, that ACTA won’t change the contours of US copyright law but that secrecy was necessary to keep trading partners at the table.

Do you see the problem here? If the effect of ACTA will be innocuous, then why would sharing details disrupt negotiations? If transparency might cause some parties to walk, then how can the terms being discussed be innocuous? Even more mind boggling is why we would need the controversial Internet chapter if it wouldn’t actually change anything.

Steve did concede once or twice that there are “exceptions” to what he sees as the normative enforcement rules. In that context, he most notoriously repeated the old saw about Canada essentially being a haven for copyright pirates.

I get that ACTA is more than just the Internet chapter and that the other portions of it are probably rightly kept at least somewhat under wraps. But why not disclose at least that one chapter to allow for clearer public discourse? The negotiators involved are unused to the public having an interest in copyright but hasn’t the opening up of WIPO taught them anything? Another alternative that would resolve the controversy almost entirely overnight would be to simply drop the problematic internet provisions and pursue them orthogonally, out in the open, through WIPO.  Sadly, I am not optimistic either of these will actually happen.

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