After attending the three day WTO Ministerial meeting in Geneva, I took the non-stop United Airlines Flight back to Washington, DC. On the airplane were a number of U.S. government officials including the head of USTR, Ambassador Ron Kirk. I had a chance to talk to Kirk about the secrecy of the ACTA agreement. He said the ACTA text would be made public, “when it is finished.” I told him it that was too late, and the public wanted the text out now, before it is too late to influence anything.
Kirk said he was aware that there were those who wanted the text public, but the issue of transparency was “about as complicated as it can get,” and Kirk didn’t want people “walking away from the table,” which would likely happen if the text was public, he said.
I said that it was untrue that IPR negotiations are normally secret, mentioning as examples that drafts of the other IPR texts, including the proposed WIPO treaty for disabilities and the climate change agreement language on IPR, as well as several drafts of the FTAA text and the 1996 WIPO copyright treaties had been public. Kirk said that ACTA “was different” and the topics being negotiated in ACTA were “more complex.”
I brought up to Kirk that the USTR had shown ACTA text to dozens of corporate lobbyists and all of its trading partners in the ACTA negotiation, and the text was only secret from the public. Kirk did say USTR was discussing this issue with the White House and its trading partners, but that was about all he could say at that moment.
There have been several stories about this in the Internet press, including these:
- Glyn Moody, Open, December 3, 2009, US ACTA Offical Squirms, Talks Drivel
- Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt, Dec 4th 2009, Why Would Countries Leave ACTA Negotiations If Text Was Public?
- David Kravets , Wired: Threat Level, December 4, 2009, Report: U.S. Fears Public Scrutiny Would Scuttle IP Treaty Talks. The Kravets story includes a statement by USTR, and my comment on that statement.
- GamePolitics.Com, December 4, 2009, KEI Director Corners USTR on Plane to Discuss ACTA
- Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing, December 5, 2009, US Trade Rep weasels and squirms when cornered on an airplane and questioned about secret copyright treaty. I have added a few elaborations in the BoingBoing comment section.
- Julien L. Numerama, December 5, 2009. Si l’ACTA est rendu public maintenant, des participants “quitteront la table”
- P2PNet, December 5, 2009. ACTA secrecy ‘complicated’ – USTR Kirk – Seen by ‘dozens of corporate lobbyists’
- Remy Chavannes, Column Zaterdag, nu.nl, December 5, 2009. ACTA en de monnik.
English translation here.
- I Don’t Believe in Imaginary Property, Slashdot.org, December 7, 2009, Ambassador Claims ACTA Secrecy Necessary
- Jared, Zeropaid, December 7, 2009. US Trade Ambassador: “Complex” Anti-Piracy Treaty Details Prevent Transparency