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“ACTA’s harm greatly exceeds its potential benefits...”

One of the speakers was Dr Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. He is a recognized expert on ACTA

ACTA has already been signed by the EU and by many of its member states. All that is now required for it to eventually become law within the EU is ratification by the European Parliament. Without that ratification, it goes no further in Europe. It is difficult to see how ACTA could survive without EU participation.

Geist had been invited to discuss a report he had earlier written specifically for the workshop. The report is expected to be made public in the next few weeks, but meanwhile he has published a transcript of his opening remarks to the workshop. In this he discussed his report, starting with its conclusion. “This report concludes that ACTA’s harm greatly exceeds its potential benefits... there are ample reasons for the public and politicians to reject the agreement in its current form.”

Geist’s report is divided into three parts. “Part one,” he said, “analyzes the process-related problems including the lack of transparency, the exclusion of many developing countries from the negotiation process, and the harm caused by ACTA to the effectiveness of multilateral organizations such as the WTO and WIPO.”

Part two looks at the substance of ACTA. It identifies, he said, “four broad areas of concern: the expansion of intellectual property law, the likelihood that permissive provisions will gradually be interpreted as mandatory, the renegotiation of international intellectual property rights agreements, and the absence of balancing provisions and procedural safeguards.”

Part three examines the likely effectiveness of ACTA. In it he addresses the vexing question of whether it does or does not require changes to national laws. “If ACTA does not change domestic rules,” he said at the workshop, “it is far less likely to contribute positively to the battle against counterfeiting.  If it does require domestic change, ratification of the agreement raises constitutional and procedural questions as well as substantive concerns about the likely changes.”