The newly formed Australian Pirate Party came out swinging yesterday with a release criticising the international discussions currently being held in Korea to cement an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
(Credit: Pirate Party)
These discussions had their roots back in 2006 when the US and Japan floated the idea of a new treaty to help build joint intellectual property rules to fight counterfeiting and piracy. June 2008 saw Australia included along with other countries.
The most recent round of discussions started this week in Seoul and was set to deal with "enforcement in the digital environment". Reports based on leaked information say that the discussions are focusing on issues such as making safe harbour for internet service providers contingent on deterring users storing and transmitting content that infringes intellectual property. Deterrents could take the form of terminating subscribers based on a three-strikes scheme.
The discussions have until now, apart from leaks, remained secret, with the Australian government giving as a reason that it is "accepted practice during trade negotiations among sovereign states to not share negotiation texts with the public at large, particularly at earlier stages of the negotiation", while the US government quotes national security. Parties who saw documents were reportedly required to sign non-disclosure agreements.
The Australian Pirate Party, formed last September to champion copyright, free speech and privacy issues, decried the discussions and their secrecy. "It is an alarming development, we need people to speak up and make it known to the Australian government that this is atrocious. Secret negotiations, with no transparent public consultation for a treaty that threatens to further compromise our civil liberties and expand the already damaging and draconian copyright monopoly is unacceptable." David Crafti, Pirate Party Australia president, said in a statement.
The secrecy and the treaty, which would be used to give a monopoly to an innovator and not to foster innovation were tyrannical, he said.
Another Pirate Party spokesperson, Rodney Serkowski, said that the talks were being conducted in complete disregard for civil liberties. "Any move to disconnect any person from the internet because they are partaking in cultural exchange by sharing privately and non-commercially is offensive. We completely reject any plan to make carriage service providers de facto copyright cops. ISPs should be given no right or responsibility to snoop through private communication. We wouldn't tolerate it with Australia Post, so we shouldn't tolerate it with our internet connections," he said.