Monday, March 22, 2010

Counterfeit negotiations

You may not have heard of ACTA. I don't believe I had until I heard a radio piece on it a few days ago. Certainly it hasn't been on my radar screen and I get the distinct impression that as far as the parties involved are concerned, the fewer radar screens it's on, the better.

ACTA stands for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. While "counterfeiting" might suggest coins and bills, ACTA appears to be aimed at counterfeiting of goods (for example, generic drugs) and of content such as music and movies. I say "appears" because since its inception in 2008, ACTA has been negotiated in secret, albeit with occasional substantive leaks.

While I can see the common thread here, it seems a bit of a stretch to treat piracy, where no one is really pretending that an unauthorized copy is anything other than that, with counterfeiting, which tries to pass off something illegitimate as legitimate. Add to that the overall lack of transparency as to what's being negotiated or even exactly who is doing it on whose behalf, and it's very easy to see why the EFF and others have been strongly opposed to the whole business from the outset.

Whatever one's opinions on intellectual property and the role of the internet in distributing it, and no matter whether ACTA is in fact an attempt to make major changes to IP policy or just an alignment of practices among the entities involved, I can see no good reason to hold such a negotiation in secret. At the very least, doing so gives the one more reason to believe the RIAA and company are either acting in bad faith or stunningly clueless. That helps no one.

[ACTA was signed by several countries in 2011, but only ratified by Japan, meaning that no one else is actually legally committed to following it, and leaving it a bit moot whether Japan is following it in its relations with itself. -- D.H. May 2015]

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