Bronwyn Holloway-Smith

About ACTA

August 17, 2008

Wikileaks logo

I’m not usually someone to push political issues, but I have recently found out about a treaty negotiation that the New Zealand government is taking part in that I think will affect a lot of people, so feel it is my duty to talk about it.

Basically, there have been several months of secret negotiation between the governments of New Zealand and other countries including USA, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Canada, Mexico & the European Union on a treaty called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). This international negotiation has been taking place without public consultation* until some (copyrighted?!) information was leaked to the internet.

Although it’s called “counterfeiting” it’s actually about tracking copyrighted material online, not just fake bank notes & Gucci bags (mine’s real by the way, darling). Currently if the police want to search your house or tap your phone or internet they’d need to present evidence to a judge, however with this proposed treaty then any copyright holder would be able to bypass the court and monitor your internet connection, your friends internet connections, and your travels overseas – all in the name of “protecting artists work”. As an artist, I’m not quite convinced that the protection of my work’s copyright warrants this kind of activity.

ACTA would also allow Customs (ie at the airport) to randomly search your laptop, MP3 player, and cellular phone for copyright-infringing content (ie, digital music files, a funny video someone emailed to you on your laptop, music or video that you are remixing or mashing up, a poem that you typed into your computer out of a book that you got from the library, etc…). Travelers who can’t prove what they bought would be subject to a fine and may have their devices confiscated or destroyed.

As I said, the agreement has been kept secret from the public until some information was leaked to the internet. Since then, the Ministry of Economic Development has released only 13 out of 91 documents relating to its part in the negotiation after an official information request. Consultant Mark Harris made a request for “any and all information” the MED holds on ACTA. In response, MED identified 91 documents falling within the scope of the request. The department has supplied Harris with just 13 of these and some parts of most of have been withheld.

Included in the 13 documents are suggestions that copyright owners be given information about infringers “including their identities, means of production and distribution and relevant third parties”, so the owners can pursue further action against them or keep watch on their future activities.

In all likelihood these kinds of negotiations will lead to major copyright/intellectual property holders (ie, Disney, Sony, Time Warner) pushing for a situation where the internet will be constantly monitored. Everything you view, download, share, will be recorded.

Anyway, that’s the gist of it.

There will be another call for submissions, so a group of New Zealanders opposed to ACTA are looking for artists (musicians/visual artists/film makers/writers/VJs, etc…) that understand the issue and are happy to speak/write/email against it in order to convince MED that it’s not in our best interest.

So what can you do?

If you want to help the push against this, you can:

  • contact me and say so!!
  • forward this on to your friends & spread the word
  • let me know if you want to be involved in the next submission round (dates are not yet public)

And, just to prove I’m not making this all up, you can find out more here:

*Although the public were not consulted, several large companies were, including:

  • Time Warner
  • News Corp
  • Sony
  • Walt Disney Co

Bronwyn Holloway-Smith

Written by Bronwyn Holloway-Smith who is an artist in Wellington, New Zealand. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter