The next round of negotiations on the secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) are due to begin this week in Guadalajara, Mexico. On the agenda this week are civil copyright measures, border measures, internet enforcement measures, and, very briefly, the issue of the lack of transparency in the negotiations.
While much of the text is hidden from public view, the EU’s analysis of the negotiations was leaked late last year. The leak confirms that the ACTA is designed to impose the tough sanctions developed by the US for copyright infringement on other signatories. The main goal of the ACTA seems to be to bypass the WIPO system and entrench US-style copyright regulations around the world. In this sense, a multi-lateral agreement may be more effective than the series of bi-lateral agreements that we have seen in recent years because it has the opportunity to bind several countries at once to implement US-equivalent law.
By doing away with the open international process that WIPO conducts, the ACTA poses a real threat to the reasoned modification of intellectual property laws worldwide. By doing so in secret, it ensures that democratic processes are marginalised; the public will only get to see the text once it has been finalised, at a point when it is likely to be too late, politically, for states to withdraw support.