A Submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 (# ACTA)

Rimmer, Matthew (2012) A Submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 (# ACTA).

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Abstract

“If Hollywood could order intellectual property laws for Christmas, what would they look like? This is pretty close.” David Fewer

“While European and American IP maximalists have pushed for TRIPS-Plus provisions in FTAs and bilateral agreements, they are now pushing for TRIPS-Plus-Plus protections in these various forums.” Susan Sell

“ACTA is a threat to the future of a free and open Internet.” Alexander Furnas

“Implementing the agreement could open a Pandora's box of potential human rights violations.” Amnesty International.

“I will not take part in this masquerade.” Kader Arif, Rapporteur for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 in the European Parliament

Executive Summary

As an independent scholar and expert in intellectual property, I am of the view that the Australian Parliament should reject the adoption of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011.

I would take issue with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s rather partisan account of the negotiations, the consultations, and the outcomes associated with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011. In my view, the negotiations were secretive and biased; the local consultations were sometimes farcical because of the lack of information about the draft texts of the agreement; and the final text of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 is not in the best interests of Australia, particularly given that it is a net importer of copyright works and trade mark goods and services. I would also express grave reservations about the quality of the rather pitiful National Interest Analysis – and the lack of any regulatory impact statement – associated with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011. The assertion that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 does not require legislative measures is questionable – especially given the United States Trade Representative has called the agreement ‘the highest-standard plurilateral agreement ever achieved concerning the enforcement of intellectual property rights.’

It is worthwhile reiterating that there has been much criticism of the secretive and partisan nature of the negotiations surrounding the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011. Sean Flynn summarizes these concerns:

"The negotiation process for ACTA has been a case study in establishing the conditions for effective industry capture of a lawmaking process. Instead of using the relatively transparent and inclusive multilateral processes, ACTA was launched through a closed and secretive “‘club approach’ in which like-minded jurisdictions define enforcement ‘membership’ rules and then invite other countries to join, presumably via other trade agreements.” The most influential developing countries, including Brazil, India, China and Russia, were excluded. Likewise, a series of manoeuvres ensured that public knowledge about the specifics of the agreement and opportunities for input into the process were severely limited. Negotiations were held with mere hours notice to the public as to when and where they would be convened, often in countries half away around the world from where public interest groups are housed. Once there, all negotiation processes were closed to the public. Draft texts were not released before or after most negotiating rounds, and meetings with stakeholders took place only behind closed doors and off the record. A public release of draft text, in April 2010, was followed by no public or on-the-record meetings with negotiators."

Moreover, it is disturbing that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 has been driven by ideology and faith, rather than by any evidence-based policy making Professor Duncan Matthews has raised significant questions about the quality of empirical evidence used to support the proposal of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011: ‘There are concerns that statements about levels of counterfeiting and piracy are based either on customs seizures, with the actual quantities of infringing goods in free circulation in any particular market largely unknown, or on estimated losses derived from industry surveys.’ It is particularly disturbing that, in spite of past criticism, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has supported the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011, without engaging the Productivity Commission or the Treasury to do a proper economic analysis of the proposed treaty.

Kader Arif, Rapporteur for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 in the European Parliament, quit his position, and said of the process:

"I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, exclusion of the EU Parliament's demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly. As rapporteur of this text, I have faced never-before-seen manoeuvres from the right wing of this Parliament to impose a rushed calendar before public opinion could be alerted, thus depriving the Parliament of its right to expression and of the tools at its disposal to convey citizens' legitimate demands.” Everyone knows the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether it is its impact on civil liberties, the way it makes Internet access providers liable, its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little protection it gives to our geographical indications. This agreement might have major consequences on citizens' lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade."

There have been parallel concerns about the process and substance of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 in the context of Australia.

I have a number of concerns about the substance of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011. First, I am concerned that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 fails to provide appropriate safeguards in respect of human rights, consumer protection, competition, and privacy laws. It is recommended that the new Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights investigate this treaty.

Second, I argue that there is a lack of balance to the copyright measures in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 – the definition of piracy is overbroad; the suite of civil remedies, criminal offences, and border measures is excessive; and there is a lack of suitable protection for copyright exceptions, limitations, and remedies.

Third, I discuss trade mark law, intermediary liability, and counterfeiting. I express my concerns, in this context, that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 could have an adverse impact upon consumer interests, competition policy, and innovation in the digital economy. I also note, with concern, the lobbying by tobacco industries for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 – and the lack of any recognition in the treaty for the capacity of countries to take measures of tobacco control under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Fourth, I note that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 provides no positive obligations to promote access to essential medicines. It is particularly lamentable that Australia and the United States of America have failed to implement the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health 2001 and the WTO General Council Decision 2003.

Fifth, I express concerns about the border measures in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011. Such measures lack balance – and unduly favour the interests of intellectual property owners over consumers, importers, and exporters. Moreover, such measures will be costly, as they involve shifting the burden of intellectual property enforcement to customs and border authorities. Interdicting, seizing, and destroying goods may also raise significant trade issues.

Finally, I express concern that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 undermines the role of existing international organisations, such as the United Nations, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization, and subverts international initiatives such as the WIPO Development Agenda 2007. I also question the raison d'être, independence, transparency, and accountability of the proposed new ‘ACTA Committee’.

In this context, I am concerned by the shift in the position of the Labor Party in its approach to international treaty-making in relation to intellectual property. The Australian Parliament adopted the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement 2004, which included a large Chapter on intellectual property. The treaty was a ‘TRIPs-Plus’ agreement, because the obligations were much more extensive and prescriptive than those required under the multilateral framework established by the TRIPS Agreement 1994. During the debate over the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement 2004, the Labor Party expressed the view that it would seek to mitigate the effects of the TRIPS-Plus Agreement, when at such time it gained power. Far from seeking to ameliorate the effects of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement 2004, the Labor Government would seek to lock Australia into a TRIPS-Double Plus Agreement – the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011. There has not been a clear political explanation for this change in approach to international intellectual property.

For both reasons of process and substance, I conclude that the Australian Parliament and the Australian Government should reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011. The Australian Government would do better to endorse the Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest 2011, and implement its outstanding obligations in respect of access to knowledge, access to essential medicines, and the WIPO Development Agenda 2007. The case study of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement 2011 highlights the need for further reforms to the process by which Australia engages in international treaty-making.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 86884
Item Type: Report
Refereed: No
Keywords: Intellectual Property and Innovation Law Research Group
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Matthew Rimmer
Deposited On: 25 Sep 2015 04:15
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2016 22:16

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