The ACTA negotiatiors, who have just concluded their meeting in New Zealand, have issued a press release where they say that they will make the consolidated text coming out of the discussions available on Wednesday 21 April.
This is a step in the right direction, and should be welcomed. It shows that the negotiators have at least taken note of some parts of the resolution that the European Parliament adopted in March.
But many battles still remain. Once we have access to the text, we can start discussing the content in earnest.
And on the content of the ACTA agreement, we have no reason to think that it will be anything near acceptable.
For example, it is obvious from the press release that the negotiators still think that they will be able to get away with things by wording them cleverly.
The second to last paragraph in the press release reads:
While the participants recognise the importance of responding effectively to the challenge of Internet piracy, they confirmed that no participant is proposing to require governments to mandate a ‘graduated response’ or ‘three strikes’ approach to copyright infringement on the Internet.
To an untrained ear, this might sound very good indeed, and might lead someone to believe that they are no longer considering a ”three strikes” approach in ACTA.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
While it may be true that they will not be introducing ”three strikes” by requiring governments to mandate it, nobody really thought that they would do it in such an obvious way.
They way they are planning to introduce it is by saying that the ”safe harbour” protection from secondary liability for internet service providers will be dependent on the ISPs introducing ”appropriate measures” in their terms of service.
In other words: an ISP is free to do as he wants, but if he does not have ”three strikes” (or something similar) in the contracts, the ISP will risk facing unlimited damages if any of his clients does anything illegal.
So even if it is technically true that the government does not mandate it, the net effect will be the same. Three strikes will have been introduced in practice, because no ISP can run his business without introducing a three stikes clause in his terms of service.
So, to summarize, it is a good thing if they indeed do make public the current text on Wednesday. But we are still a very long way away from opening any champagne bottles to celebrate victory on ACTA.