More hype than facts about ACTA from its critics

April 13th, 2010 by Barry Sookman Leave a reply »

The internet is lighting up again with opposition to the ACTA as negotiations on the trade agreement resume in New Zealand. Notwithstanding that much about the treaty is now known from well publicized leaks, its critics continue to try and slag it with misinformation and biased criticism.

Consider the following summary by Prof. Geist in yesterday’s Toronto Star article which was re-published in his blog this morning. Prof. Geist says:

“the text confirmed many fears about the substance of ACTA. If adopted in its current form, the treaty would have a significant impact on the Internet, leading some countries to adopt three-strikes-and-you’re-out policies that terminate subscriber access due to infringement allegations, increasing legal protection for digital locks, mandating new injunction powers, implementing statutory damages provisions worldwide, and engaging in widespread data sharing across national borders.”

Here again, Prof. Geist is misrepresenting what the actual published text of the draft treaty says. As I have pointed out in two previous articles, Fear Mongering and Misinformation Used to Slag ACTA and A reply to ACTA critics, the draft text would not mandate any “countries to adopt three-strikes-and-you’re-out policies that terminate subscriber access due to infringement allegations”. This is pure scaremongering.

The draft treaty would require contracting countries to provide legal protection for technological measures, but these measures have already been implemented around the world throughout the EU and elsewhere in order to comply with the WIPO Internet Treaties. Of course, ACTA would require Canada to “increase” protection for TPMs. We don’t have any protection for TPMs now and we are the only G20 country not to have any such protection.

It is also hard to understand Prof. Geist’s criticism of international cooperation including sharing of information to combat counterfeiting. Prof. Geist was an ardent supporter of Bill c-27, the Electronic Commerce Protection Act. That Bill would have given the Canadian Government extensive rights to share data with other countries to fight SPAM. Prof. Geist endorsed these provisions in that Bill, even testifying before the Parliamentary Industry Committee studying the Bill supporting international data sharing to fight SPAM. (See, Lines 1715-1722 of his testimony). It is well known that organized crime is extensively involved in counterfeiting activities. It is puzzling that Prof. Geist believes that international cooperation is essential when dealing with SPAM but not counterfeiting. SPAM may clutter our in-boxes and cause economic harm. But, as two Parliamentary Standing Committees recently found, counterfeiting causes economic harm and also poses serious health and safety issues for Canadians. See, Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Counterfeit Goods in Canada – A Threat to Public Safety (May 2007), Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, Counterfeiting and Piracy Are Theft (June 2007)

As the debate about ACTA continues, the public should realize that simply relying on secondary and tertiary summaries of the draft treaty will not provide an accurate assessment about what the treaty is really about. You really need to check your sources.

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