DFAT trade policy assistant secretary George Mina told the committee that the ACTA did not overstep existing treaties and laws on copyright and intellectual property, and would in fact provide a higher level of certainty for Australians that do business in overseas markets.
“Activities that were legal before ACTA is ratified will be legal after ACTA is ratified,” he said.
Mina said ACTA would not infringe people’s civil liberties, the freedom of the Internet or require ISPs to monitor activities of individuals.
“There will be no censorship on the Internet or require ISPs to prevent copyright infringement or terminate their internet connections,” he added.
Mena argued that Australian negotiators took note of concerns raised around ISP liabilities.
“There was a great deal of concern in our ISP community as to the potential impact of this on the safe harbour regime under our Copyright Act,” Mina said.
“We spent a great deal of time with members of the Internet Industry and representatives of users concerned about the impact of this agreement on our legislative setup.
“I can also attest to the fact that there was a degree of satisfaction expressed by representatives of the Internet Industry as a result.”
Mina said that 30 of the 37 countries negotating the ACTA agreed with the draft text of the treaty. At least six countries are required to ratify ACTA for it come into force, he said.
He played down reported accounts of concerns in some European countries about ACTA’s impact on local laws.
“No country in the EU has made a definitive decision not to ratify ACTA,” he said. “Some countries are pausing while they reflect further, is our understanding of the situation.”
He said that the Australian Government worked hard to achieve a process that was transparent, inclusive and open, and that it involved more than 150 stakeholders.
Open to change
The Australian Digital Alliance (ADA) raised concerns before the committee that the ACTA assumed the current state of intellectual property laws was ideal and would only entrench them.
In response, Mina said the ACTA was written in broad and flexible terms and could accommodate IP reforms that Australians may wish to pursue.
He pointed to ACTA’s Article 2 which states that each party to the treaty is free to determine the appropriate method of implementing the provisions of the agreement within its own legal system and practise.
A second round of hearings before the Joint Select Committee on Treaties is scheduled for Friday March 23.
Disclosure: John Hilvert was employed by the Internet Industry Association at the time of ACTA deliberations.”