THE POPULARLY REVILED Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) might be nearly dead, but the forces behind it are already working on a replacement.
A seminar organised by David Martin, the European Parliament's rapporteur on ACTA last week concluded that ACTA should not be approved and is dead in the water. That should be the end of the draconian treaty, but it is not warns the Pirate Party UK.
"This is heartening news for Pirates and other champions of civil liberties, but the fight is not yet over," said Pirate Party UK leader Loz Kaye.
"A leaked document from the G8 (PDF) suggests that there is already work in progress on a 'new ACTA'. Whilst this document seems much more closely focused on dealing with fake medicines, there are still several areas of concern."
The Pirate Party has already warned that such agreements, which could severely limit the spread and use of generic medicines, and put people's lives at risk, and here it repeats that argument.
"IP enforcement attempts should never get in the way of saving lives," said Kaye. "The leaked document fails to distinguish between 'fake' medicines and 'generic, but disputed' medicines - where the distinction is that the former are clearly dangerous, whereas the latter are effective treatments."
Kaye added that although it is important to stop the sale of fake drugs, the same cannot be said of generic ones. "Disputed-patent drugs can be of huge value in dealing with developing world health crises, and one of the problems with ACTA was that it would interfere with the availability of these drugs for such emergencies," he explained.
Of course the bulk of the arguments around the original ACTA concerned its approach to 'piracy' and 'pirates', which was to kick it and them in the face. Also controversial was the way it was weighted in the direction of the private sector. Kaye said that both these elements are present in the new document.
"There are a number of throwaway references to 'counterfeiting... and piracy'," he said. "The document makes reference to 'voluntary actions by the private sector', and speaks of using credit-card processors and PayPal to block payments to organisations accused of counterfeiting."
The leaked G8 document is dubbed the "G-8 Initiative to Strengthen Enforcement against Cross-Border Counterfeiting and Piracy". It makes reference to ACTA, proposes that stronger controls are needed, and recommends "the establishment of business-friendly voluntary best practices". µ