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Wikileaks cables reveal Acta negotiators avoided official scrutiny

Ian Grant

US negotiators wanted to make the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta) a "freestanding agreement" to avoid scrutiny from international groupings such as the G-8 or OECD, according to diplomatic cables revealed by Wikileaks.

Wikileaks made available a number of Acta-related cables to the French digital rights campaign group La Quadrature du Net.

According to one document, the US trade representative chief negotiator Stanford McCoy stressed to Japanese counterparts in 2006 that Acta "should be a freestanding agreement, not related to any international grouping such as the G-8 or OECD, which might make it more difficult to construct a high-standards agreement".

The final, multilateral anti-counterfeiting deal, which was negotiated in secret, is now being considered for ratification by participants, including the UK. British officials have indicated that no UK legislation need be changed to put Acta into effect.

However, a judicial review of parts of the Digital Economy Act, due later this month, and the recent decision to ask Ofcom to reconsider some parts of the act, may change this.

Acta was largely the result of lobbying by US-based music, video and film copyright holders, with support from the software industry. It was aimed mainly at stopping illegal file-sharing.

Acta required internet service providers to accept more responsibility to stopping content piracy. It proposed a variety of counter-measures such as bandwidth throttling, website blocking, account blocking and aggressive search and seizure techniques.

It was condemned by civil and digital rights activists as intrusive, probably ineffective and possibly in breach of privacy and human rights legislation.

La Quadrature du Net said: "The history of Acta, as exposed by these US diplomatic cables, shows how an opaque and illegitimate process has led to ill-founded and unbalanced repressive provisions. As democratic representatives start debating over the ratification of Acta, they should reject Acta so as to protect democratic values and the rule of law."


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