ACTA Wellington agenda and venue leaked

Sceptics will be invited to 'stakeholders' function

Preliminary documents for the ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) meeting in Wellington, to be held in the week beginning April 12, have been leaked, including the agenda and venue -- and several references to the fact that the documents are confidential and should not be publicly released.

Ministry of Economic Development spokesman George Wardle confirms that a function on the evening of Tuesday 13th for "stakeholders to meet and interact with ACTA negotiators" will be open to user groups such as the Creative Freedom Foundation and InternetNZ and to ISPs and other "intermediaries" as well as the expected copyright-holder lobbies and general business organisation such as NZ Business and the Manufacturers' Association.

ACTA, an effort to create an international regime to combat counterfeiting and copyright infringement, has been in secret negotiation among a number of countries including New Zealand for over two years. Others parties include the US, EU, Australia, Mexico and Japan.

Organisers were trying to keep the venue secret, however that has also leaked in the draft agenda. The meeting is scheduled to be held at Wellington's Intercontinental Hotel.

The agenda is scheduled to cover border measures on Monday, followed by the key question (for ICT interests) of "enforcement procedures in the digital environment" -- primarily measures to detect and deter illegal downloading of copyright material through the internet.

Criminal measures and civil enforcement are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

On Friday delegates will discuss transparency -- whether details of the discussions, widely criticised for secrecy, should be more widely released. New Zealand negotiators have told Computerworld they champion greater transparency. The European Union is said to be leaning in that direction, with the US allegedly being most strongly opposed.

An hour and a half has been allocated for transparency discussions and local commentators suggest this is not long enough.

Consultant Mark Harris who has been following the ACTA debate keenly, labels it a "pathetic" gesture.

"It's only on the agenda so they can say 'See? We are talking about transparency'," he says, in Twitter conversation with equally sceptical UK-based author and blogger Glyn Moody.

Ahead of the Wellington negotiation round, the MED and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade are hosting a "dedicated background briefing session" on ACTA for local media "elaborating on the context for the negotiation and for New Zealand's involvement."

Sessions will be held on Tuesday, March 23, in Auckland and Thursday, March 25, in Wellington.

Meanwhile, ginger group Tech Liberty last week released more ACTA information released under an Official Information request.

This included the fact that New Zealand was interested in the possibility of using ACTA to extend intellectual property rights to "traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions" such as Maori culture, but decided that the other participants would not be interested.

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