This article has been published at the ABC.
Today we saw thousands take to the streets in Poland in what has become an ongoing protest, the European Parliament’s rapporteur of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement resign in disgust at the ACTA charade, the exclusionary and opaque process. We also saw the passing of what is possibly the last opportunity for Australians to stop the ACTA agreement cementing the expansive changes to laws in Australia imposed via the Australian United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA).
There is some debate as to whether there will be any substantive change for Australia, i.e. are we going to have to change our laws? It certainly cements the already draconian laws we have, providing an environment for stricter enforcement and for an expansion of an already bad system, but that is not the biggest issue with ACTA.
The biggest issue is the secrecy in which the agreement was forged. The exclusion of civil society, consumer and civil liberties groups in formative stages, where a belligerent industry intent on disingenuously conflating issues like file sharing with counterfeiting were given open and unfettered access.
ACTA is an example of legislative negligence and a total disregard for evidence in policy making in Australia. Despite the Productivity Commission proclaiming that Australia should be seeking to exclude IP from bilateral and regional trade negotiations because of the obviously damaging changes to Australian law imposed by the AUSFTA, here is DFAT negotiating an agreement that entrenches those bad laws, just as it continues to include those bad laws in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). When queried, there is no study or economic assessment that supports the expansion or stricter enforcement of copyright and patents in Australia, except of course for untrustworthy industry research, manufactured to elicit legislative change by deception.
These sentiments, and others, were expressed in the Pirate Party’s submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. Although the due date has passed, Committee Secretaries are usually more than willing to accept late submissions. Make noise.