ACTA update: New meetings, new partners, new issues
The Canadian government held an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement consultation meeting today focused on pharmaceutical and access to medicines issues. The meeting was smaller than the earlier consultation in April, but featured some important new information about the ACTA process including a fuller description of planned negotiating meetings, details on the upcoming Morocco meeting, and confirmation on an inquiry from Brazil about joining the negotiations.
1. Negotiation schedule
The ACTA partners met on June 11th to discuss ACTA related issues and committed at the meeting to continue with the negotiations. The next meeting is set for Morocco in July with later meetings currently planned for October (Korea) and December (Mexico). There are additional tentative plans for meetings in February and April 2010.
2. The Morocco meeting
Officials advised that the Morocco meeting will be a two-day meeting that focuses on ACTA chapters involving international co-operation, enforcement, and institutional issues. The meeting will also address some "housekeeping" issues including ongoing transparency concerns. The Internet-related provisions will not be a focus and the Internet-related issues has not progressed beyond the U.S. non-paper that surveyed other ACTA participants on the state of their digital copyright laws (in other words, there is still no draft text).
3. New partners
During the meeting, I asked whether ACTA was open to new countries to join the negotiations before they conclude. Canada hedged, noting that the issue would be discussed at the Morocco meeting and that it would depend upon the country and the context. The issue has apparently become more urgent since Canadian officials confirmed that Brazil has approached one ACTA participant about the prospect of joining, but have not received an answer. Moreover, other countries may have made similar inquiries. I wrote about the desirability of broader participation earlier this year.
4. The De Minimis Exception
The issue of creating a de minimis exception within ACTA was raised during the discussion. The exception would be designed to carve out small quantities and personal use issues from border enforcement. Officials noted that the primary goal is to address large scale counterfeiting and that the treaty should be non-intrusive and practical. Canada is one of at least three countries that have put forward de minimis language. Officials said that there was agreement in principle with including some form of de minimis provision in the treaty.
Michael Geist is a law professor and the Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa.