A coalition of interest groups has formed to launch a site dedicated to providing information about the controversial Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
ACTA has been under secret negotiation between New Zealand and several other countries, including the US, Australia, Japan, the EU and Canada, for over a year. Leaks have raised concerns about ACTA's function and content as it appears to be more and more about copyright rather than counterfeiting.
Among those involved are Internet NZ, the Creative Freedom Foundation, which led opposition to copyright law amendments last year, Tech Liberty, blogger Mark Harris, who has been vocal on ACTA, tech consultant Colin Jackson, web guru Nat Torkington and several others.
More organisations may join as the coalition progresses, says Jackson.
"The treaty has caused concern to a number of organisations and individuals, in New Zealand and internationally, because the content of the negotiations have been kept secret (unlike many similar 'intellectual property' treaties), and because a leaked document shows there is an 'Internet Chapter' in the negotiations that appears to include provisions that are related to not counterfeiting, but rather to non-commercial copyright infringements on the internet," the ACTA site explains.
"Concerns have been voiced that if signed and ratified in the form that has been leaked, ACTA would effectively undercut the public consultation and domestic policy deliberation that has already occured on copyright issues. It would, some people believe, force New Zealand and other countries to throw out laws that have been developed through open democratic processes, in order to harmonise legislation with this secretly negotiated treaty."
"Some international treaties are a good thing," Jackson says. "This one might be too, but we don't know because its been negotiated in secret.
"If you are going to take stuff away, that's a debate we all have to have."
The Ministry of Economic Development is holding an update meeting on ACTA next Wednesday.
Jackson says the new site can be expected to be focused on that and he hopes the meeting will be tweetable on #ACTA.