Hard News by Russell Brown


The Wellington Declaration

Can you do one thing for me? Read the Wellington Declaration, addressed to the parties negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in Wellington this week, and then consider signing the accompanying petition of endorsement.

Well, okay, strictly speaking that's two things, but this warrants your time as an internet user.

The most obvious problem with ACTA is, of course, the secrecy in which it's being negotiated. All we know about it is the result of leaks. Conventionally, such an agreement like this would be negotiated through World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), which has transparent processes. The absence of such transparency in negotiating an agreement that would commit signatory nations to effective changes in sovereign copyright and other laws is not acceptable.

The Declaration was forged at the PublicACTA conference in Wellington on Saturday, in a process ably stewarded by Nat Torkington. It will be presented to New Zealand government negotiators tomorrow morning, and it's expected that they will forward it to the other parties who have come to Wellington for the latest round of ACTA negotiations this week. So you have today to sign it, if you wish.

They key points of the Declaration as I read it are:

- Transparency: The release of text for scrutiny after each round. A preference for WIPO as the forum for such discussion.

- Evidence required: both of the scope of any piracy problem and the likely impact of any new measures.

- Participation: all sectors to be affected by such an agreement – from health and education to arts and consumer rights groups – should have a voice in its negotiation.

- Exceptions, such as those in our Copyright Act, for fair use or fair dealing must be preserved.

- Privacy: Personal details should not be released without judicial oversight, no surveillance.

- Preservation of existing civil processes, and resistance and "a high bar for criminal liability".

- Damages should be "proportionate to the intent, and to the real and actual harm," of an infringement, and determined by the courts of each sovereign nation.

- Protection for ISPs, hosting services and search engines.

- Access: "We declare that access to the Internet is increasingly necessary for participation in society. Disconnection, account suspension, or limitation of service, have disproportionately negative consequences for civil rights. ACTA cannot require or allow that it be an acceptable sanction for copyright or trademark infringement."

Again, you can read the whole thing here, sign it here, and find more information here.

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