Calling out misreporting about ACTA

As I have pointed out before on several occasions, there is a lot of inaccurate reporting about ACTA. In some cases, the misreporting is done by people who are intimately familiar with the actual text of the publically available draft treaty documents. In other cases, the misreporting results from relying on those widely disseminated inaccurate secondary sources.

A case in point is recent article published by the Ottawa Citizen  and other Canwest newspapers such as the Montreal Gazette , Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald, Windsor Star, and the Vancouver Sun dealing with ACTA. The article written by Vito Pilieci made a number of inaccurate statements about ACTA including the following statements:

  • The draft text includes enhanced search powers for border-crossing guards, allowing them to comb through the personal computers and iPods of travellers.
  • The agreement will also place more responsibility on Internet service providers, such as Rogers and Bell, to become content police and prevent users from sharing pirated content over the Internet.
  • Punishment for repeat offenders includes a ban from the using the Internet for up to 12 months.

Some of the assertions made in the article have been repeatedly made by Prof. Geist whose interpretations of the leaked ACTA text are widely distributed in Canada, although he was not specifically quoted in this particular article. See, Fear Mongering and Misinformation Used to Slag ACTA and A reply to ACTA critics. The sources referred to in the article included Gwen Hinze, International Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and David Fewer, director of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) at the University of Ottawa, although the statements in the article were also not directly attributed to them.

None of  the above statements made by Mr. Pilieci about ACTA are in the draft publically available treaty text and many organizations that support the Canadian Government’s participating in ACTA are starting to notice and speak out against this kind of inaccurate reporting. For example, in a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce pointed out that “Canadians stand to benefit, not lose, from the modernization of our outdated anti-counterfeiting legislation”. The letter also called out inaccuracies in the article.

According to the Chamber:

“In a presentation to ACTA stakeholders on March 22, 2010, Luc-Pierre Devigne, Head of Intellectual Property for the European Commission, specifically noted that “there would be no new provisions on customs searches for individual laptop or MP3 players”. The draft text even contains specific proposed wording that excludes personal/non-commercial items such as iPods. The draft text also has a specific term that ensures that ISPs have no obligations to monitor their customers’ activities. Mr. Devigne also stated that there will be no requirement for any “3-strike rule” in ACTA. The draft text confirms this assertion. Clearly, ISPs would not have to become online “content police”. Finally, punishment for repeat offenders, through an Internet ban or otherwise, is not in the draft agreement.”

The Chamber also expressed its confidence that the Canadian Government is representing the interests of Canadians who are concerned about the adverse health, safety, and economic effects of counterfeiting and want to amend our laws to combat it.

The Chamber letter stated:

“The Canadian Government has acted in a responsible and informed manner in representing the interests of the people of Canada. And Canadians, properly informed by the media, will support a treaty that aims to reduce a growing problem – one that a recent Standing Committee of Parliament unanimously concluded is ‘injuring people or causing adverse health effects,’ and in which ‘organized crime is involved’.”

“It is untrue that this treaty is somehow different from other treaties in requiring Canada to alter domestic legislation. Like every treaty negotiated since the dawn of time, the ACTA talks involve give and take by each of the participating countries.”

As I stated yesterday, “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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4 thoughts on “Calling out misreporting about ACTA”

  1. Darryl Moore says:

    “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.”

    I couldn’t agree more. So how about a little more noise from your end of the court. Join in calling for the proper release of the PRIMARY sources. The drafts themselves.

    If you really want to put an end to the scaremongering then wouldn’t this be in your interest?

  2. Thank you for the comment. Many treaties are negotiated in secret to let the parties fully vet and discuss their positions without all of these discussions being made public. Whatever the reasons for the decision to keep the discussions confidential, that is how they are being conducted. People can have their views about the merits or drawbacks of transparency. But, in my view, the lack of transparency in the ACTA negotiations is no justification for anyone to misrepresent to the public what is actually known about the draft treaty. Some of the people arguing for transparency may do so because they believe that is the best way to conduct negotiations in a democratic society. That is an issue that can be debated. But, if that is the rational, then in my personal view those same democratic principles dictate the need for a principled debate about the treaty; not scaremongering which can undermine democratic discussion.

  3. Darryl Moore says:

    Barry. You say “Many treaties are negotiated in secret”, From what I have read, that has not been the case with any treaty dealing with IP. Is that true or not?

    Also, have any treaties that will or may require changes to the criminal code every been negotiated in secret?

    It is rather hypocritical to criticize people for scaremongering based on their lack of reliable information without also taking a vocal stand on the veil of secrecy which is the root cause of it. You should at least be calling for them to justify the secrecy, rather then simply accept it. Talk about undermining the democratic process!

  4. Many trade agreements that deal with IP have been done in secret. Just look at NAFTA, for example, which has an important IP component. I respectfully disagree with your point about scaremongering. There is no justificaton in my view for mistating information which has been obtained, like the actual texts of the draft treaty.

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