ACTA is released

The European Commission (EC) has today released the current working text of the much discussed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), alongside preceding versions. ACTA has so far been discussed by related parties in secretive meetings.

The European Parliament has heavily criticised the EC for not disclosing the drafts of the agreement. US corporations had the right to view the text after signing a non-disclosure agreement, whereas the EP was not allowed to see the text.

“The text makes clear what ACTA is really about: it will provide our industry and creators with better protection in overseas markets which is essential for business to thrive. It will not have a negative impact on European citizens,” commented EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht on the release of the drafts.

During the PublicACTA conference in New Zealand last week, Canadian law boffin Michael Geist however said the EC’s claim ACTA will neither change nor modify existing laws within Europe is a load of hogwash.

EC staffer Luc Devigne has said ACTA will not lead to Three-Strike rules being put into practice – even though Nicholas Sarkozy would love to have such wording in place to make his wife happy.

Wording is still in place saying “significant willful copyright or related rights infringements that have no direct or indirect motivation or financial gain” is a criminal offense. There is no definition for “significant,” so it could include anything from having a few MP3s on a HDD drive to a few hundred, depending on what lawmakers think.

In the EP itself, lobbyists are trying to sway political opinion towards industry demands. Various reports flogging facts and figures saying how detrimental online sharing is to content owners are being distributed. The various reports have received criticism from various groups and organisations for presenting incorrect data as fact.

Support for critics has come from a new report by the US Government Accountability Office, which outlines what critics have been saying for a long time – namely that all figures concerning counterfeiting and piracy are absolutely unreliable as there is no data to support them.

“Three widely cited U.S. government estimates of economic losses resulting from counterfeiting cannot be substantiated due to the absence of underlying studies. Generally, the illicit nature of counterfeiting and piracy makes estimating the economic impact of IP infringements extremely difficult, so assumptions must be used to offset the lack of data.

“Efforts to estimate losses involve assumptions such as the rate at which consumers would substitute counterfeit for legitimate products, which can have enormous impacts on the resulting estimates,” states the summary of the GAO “Intellectual Property: Observations on Efforts to Quantify the Economic Effects of Counterfeit and Pirated Goods” report.

The European Commissions ACTA website can be found here.