The story of ACTA is well-known by now. ACTA was yet another attempt by copyright and patent maximalists to spread maximalist principles further via a secretive treaty that allowed certain industries to participate in the process, but kept out any and all concerns from public interest groups, the public itself, and innovative industries that would be harmed by the laws. Thankfully, widespread protests in the EU resulted in ACTA being declared dead
there, as the EU Parliament refused to agree to ACTA. And, without the EU, it's questionable if ACTA will ever be a real
treaty in any way that matters. Yes, some countries have signed it, but there are still some ratification processes necessary, and without the EU on board, the whole thing seems kind of pointless. Other negotiating countries, including Switzerland, Australia and Mexico have indicated that they are not fans of ACTA either.
Many assumed, therefore, that ACTA was dead. But... not the US apparently. Nor Canada. In an announcement today, the USTR is apparently acting as if the months of ACTA protests and the death of ACTA in Europe didn't happen. Instead, it's all about pressuring countries like Canada
by claiming that they need "to meet its Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement obligations." Seriously, now?
Now, if I'm a Canadian politician, this is the point where I tell the USTR to go pound sand and to recognize that the world has clearly rejected the concept of ACTA, and having just gone through a long and arduous copyright reform process (also mainly because of US demands from the likes of the USTR), that the USTR should go pick on some other country to bully.
Instead, however, we get near complete capitulation. With near perfect timing, a bill has been introduced in the Canadian Parliament to bring Canadian IP law into line with ACTA
. Why would they even bother?
The core elements of the bill include the increased criminalization of copyright and trademark law as well as the introduction of new powers for Canadian border guards to detain shipments and work actively with rights holders to seize and destroy goods without court oversight or involvement.
It's really amazing that they're willing to open this can of worms, given just how strongly people fought back against ACTA elsewhere. Michael Geist has a good initial analysis of the bill at the link above, and will likely follow up to call out some more specifics in the 52 pages of changes to copyright and trademark law, but just the fact that Canada is bothering to move forward on this is troubling. It shows a Canadian government who doesn't seem to care about what the public wants, but rather feels the need to kowtow to US entertainment and pharmaceutical lobbying interests.
first is that this bill provides a clear signal that Canada will
move forward with ACTA notwithstanding some doubts over whether
there is even sufficient global support to allow it to take effect
(six ratifications are needed). ACTA is toxic in Europe, where
officials now go out of their way to assure the public that ACTA
is dead and that any new agreements will not involve efforts to
revive it. ACTA has also faced serious opposition in other
negotiating countries, including Switzerland (which
has not signed it), Australia (where a Parliamentary
against ratification), and Mexico (where the Senate
rejected it in 2010). ACTA was promoted as a "gold standard"
agreement on counterfeiting, yet the failure to garner support
from many participants has left an agreement that is often cited
as an example of how not to engage in international
negotiations. Given the global opposition, Canadian support
for ACTA is disappointing.
For many years, Canada has strongly resisted US-style copyright laws, despite tremendous pressure to do so. Watching them cave on ACTA is certainly a disappointment. Meanwhile, watching the USTR pretending as if ACTA went forward as planned is simply par for the course, and a reminder of just how completely detached from reality that organization remains. Elsewhere in the USTR's agenda release today, it mentions working with Japan to bring ACTA into force, which is somewhat laughable, considering how many countries have been rejecting it.