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EFF warns of ACTA redux

Canada, EU clone criminal provisions into new treaty

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America’s Electronic Frontier Foundation is warning that Canada and Europe are in talks to copy-paste the criminal provisions of the notorious ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) into a new treaty called CETA.

With the multi-lateral ACTA stumbling towards an unmarked grave, the world’s copyright enforcers appear to have shifted strategy towards bilateral agreements – in other words, implementing piecemeal what groups like WIPO had hoped could be achieved at a stroke.

CETA, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Trade Agreement, had been stalled, but talks about the treaty resumed last week in Ottatwa. According to the Globe and Mail, the issue of pharmaceutical patents is a current sticking point, with Europe asking Canada to implement protections beyond what the EU is able to implement.

The pharmaceutical controls in CETA are being resisted by generic drugs manufacturers both in Canada and the EU, who see the treaty as a threat to their business. In this joint statement, generics peak bodies on both sides warn that CETA would delay the release of their products.

However, it’s the proposed treaty’s penalties for Internet infringement that have the EFF up in arms. The EFF says provisions such as criminal enforcement, private enforcement by ISPs, and harsh damages for copyright infringement have all been carried over into the secretly-negotiated CETA text.

Although not yet abandoned worldwide, ACTA has been dead on its feet following overwhelming rejection in Europe. Its rejection by several EU member states, and then by the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee, has stalled the treaty. Although signed by Australia, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Canada and the US, its deep unpopularity makes widespread ratification unlikely.

Back in September, the World Trade Organization appeared to shadow a shift to bilateral negotiations in the ACTA wash-up. As detailed by IP-Watch, WPO director general Pascal Lamy referred to multilateralism as being in crisis, and suggested that there “should be more communication between the multilateral brain and the bilateral brain”. ®

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