Leaked CETA Draft Provokes ACTA Comparisons, Transparency Worries

Activists who have been rallying against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) saw the European Parliament rejection of the treaty earlier this month as a triumph over a piece of legislation they argued could have been used to censor content and silence online voices. Since then, however, the European Commision appears to have revived several of the more controversial pieces of ACTA during discussions on the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA).

Two weeks ago, a leaked draft of CETA, dated in February, prompted an uproar in the media and online from activists who claimed CETA is being used as a backdoor mechanism to implement rejected ACTA provisions. In his July 7 blogpost, Michael Geist reveals over 20 items in the leaked CETA draft that appear to be similar, if not identical, to previously controversial points in ACTA.

While the European Commission initially refused to comment on the accusations that CETA is a ‘Zombie ACTA’, EU Trade Spokesman John Clancy later responded that the leaked draft was outdated and that a number of changes have since been made, including the removal of some controversial sections, specifically the Internet provider provisions 27.3 and 27.4, which addressed trademark and copyright infringement and stated that countries would have the authority to order ISPs to disclose copyright-infringing user information. A more detailed European Commission statement outlines the specific alterations and notes:

The Commission fully respects the vote of the EP of the European Parliament on ACTA and the IPR related text of CETA is being reviewed in order to remove or adapt elements that are considered problematic in the opinions and reports adopted by European Parliament.

The statement also implies that the final draft of CETA may look like the South Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Geist, however, argues that following the South Korea-EU FTA model would require Canada to make “significant changes” to its current laws, which it does not appear to be willing to do. Geist also points out that the South Korea-EU FTA is even more problematic than ACTA in certain areas of Internet control, including in its far broader definition of copyright term extension (20 years longer than the current term length in Canada), a wide range of broadcasting rights, an artists' resale right, detailed provisions on design rights, and potential criminal liability for geographical indications violations, all of which are not found in ACTA.

As Geist notes in his most recent blog post on the situation, the biggest issue during current negotiations and in the past with ACTA has been the lack of transparency throughout the process. As negotiations continue, activists are calling for the European Commission to release a more current draft to alleviate the concerns of Internet activists and the rest of the online community.