Leaked documents concerning the latest round of negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) show that the treaty is less about piracy, and more about a global intellectual property initiative that could harm businesses and consumers.
Talks to be held in South Korea tomorrow will show that the participating countries are working on a global system enforcing a 'three strikes' system favoured by the UK government, and the institutionalisation of laws similar to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
"The leaks confirm everything that we feared about the secret ACTA negotiations," said Gwen Hinze, international policy director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in a blog post.
"The internet provisions have nothing to do with addressing counterfeit products, but are all about imposing a set of copyright industry demands on the global internet, including obligations on internet service providers to adopt three-strikes internet disconnection policies, and a global expansion of DMCA-style TPM [technological protection measures] laws."
US customs officials already have the right to take copies of laptop hard drives, and the UK has announced plans to cut off internet access for companies or individuals suspected of downloading pirated material.
Companies concerned about the security of their data are issuing 'travel laptops' to staff which contain no sensitive data, but which can download corporate data later via a virtual private network.
The ACTA treaty was initially billed as a move to stop international counterfeiting, but increasingly seems to be aimed at protecting the property of copyright owners with little thought of the ramifications for businesses.
Negotiations have been surrounded in secrecy from the start, and what details have leaked out have raised serious concerns about the ability of companies and individuals to protect their own intellectual property.
"When combined with the other chapters that include statutory damages, search and seizure powers for border guards, anti-camcording rules, and mandatory disclosure of personal information requirements, it is clear that there is no bigger intellectual property issue today than the ACTA [treaty] being negotiated behind closed doors this week in Korea," said Dr Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law.
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