Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) today expressed its concern about the lack of transparency in the development of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). EFA is also troubled by the little information that is available about the substantive content of the proposed plurilateral agreement, which threatens to dramatically alter the copyright balance in favour of corporate rights owners, impose significant liability on Internet Service Providers, and require the institution of invasive surveillance and filtering.

EFA Chair Dale Clapperton slammed the negotiation process. “Negotiations for ACTA have been conducted secretly. The public have a right to be involved in the development of measures which will significantly alter their legal rights. So far, only copyright owners have been involved in this process, and the outcome will undoubtedly favour their interests over the legitimate interests of users and reusers of copyright material.”

The plurilateral treaty development process has been initiated in private, with secret negotiations taking place behind closed doors. The full text of the draft agreement remains hidden from public view. What little information is available about ACTA shows that there appears to be significant involvement by organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America and other copyright lobby groups. There is no evidence of any consultation with groups who represent the interests of users of copyright material, or the public generally.

Mr Clapperton likened the negotiation process to the recent Australia-US Free Trade Agreement: “There is a significant concern that Australia will once again be bullied into accepting a deal which is bad for Australian creators and users. This treaty will further distort copyright law for the benefit of US copyright owners, and will not reflect a thoughtful balance designed to encourage the creation and dissemination of copyright works.”

EFA believes, on the scant information that is currently available, that ACTA runs the risk of requiring Australian authorities to enforce civil and criminal copyright law, imposing penalties against ordinary citizens which far outweigh any damage which is caused by their infringement. “This process is likely to require the AFP and Customs to act as copyright police, and diverting their attention from much more serious issues such as drug smuggling”, Clapperton continued.

“Many of the creative activities undertaken by individuals in the digital economy exist in the 'grey area' of tolerated uses. These areas of 'tolerated use' allow individuals to engage with copyright material in ways which may be technically infringing, but because no harm is caused to the copyright owner, they are implicity permitted. By requiring that the Australian public authorities police infringing activities, the 'grey area' disappears, and so does the wealth of creative endeavour which accompanies it.” Clapperton warned that “Australia risks crippling its creative industries and the creative spirit of individuals who engage with copyright material.”

EFA is concerned that consultation with only one side of the copyright debate will produce a draft agreement that reflects the demands of corporate copyright owners. EFA is highly concerned that the agreement will not reflect the legitimate interests of content consumers and reusers in favour of establishing a draconian regime of publicly funded enforcement measures. EFA calls upon the government to consider the real needs of Australian creators and not to make the same mistake the Howard Government made by being pressured into merely accepting US-driven copyright policy.

EFA fully endorses the joint submission made to the Commonwealth Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) by the Internet Industry Association (IIA), CHOICE (Australian Consumers Association), the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian Digital Alliance (ADA), which called for balance in the upcoming negotiations.

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Below is:

- Background information

- Contact details for media

Background information:

About EFA:

Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. (”EFA”) is a non-profit national organisation representing Internet users concerned with on-line rights and freedoms. EFA was established in 1994, is independent of government and commerce, and is funded by membership subscriptions and donations from individuals and organisations with an altruistic interest in promoting online civil liberties.

Media Contacts:

Mr Dale Clapperton
EFA Chair
Phone: 0416 007 100
Email: dclapperton at efa.org.au

Mr Nicolas Suzor
EFA Vice-Chair
Phone: 0402 427 723
Email: nic at efa.org.au

Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc — http://www.efa.org.au/

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