Govt downplays ACTA business impact

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Govt downplays ACTA business impact
Anti-ACTA poster

Impact statement dismissed.

Government agencies dismissed the need for a formal statement regarding the impact of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on local regulation in 2010, new documents released under Freedom of Information reveal.

The documents (pdf) – an email chain between the Department of Finance and Deregulation, and ACTA negotiators at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – show Finance believed a regulation impact statement was not required as the treaty's “business” impact in Australia was “likely to be minor”.

A formal statement is required as part of the Federal Government's consideration of whether to formally become a part of the treaty.

However, a consideration of whether such a statement was needed appeared to ignore the broader impact of community and non-profit organisation concerns, as required in a best practice guide governing the statements.

"In general terms, the more the proposed regulation impacts on business operations, and the greater the number of businesses or not-for-profit organisations that will be affected, the more likely it is that a RIS will be required," the guide states.

The disclosed documents suggest neither DFAT nor OBPR addressed “not-for-profit organisations”.

The joint select committee inspecting the treaty received serveral public submissions from not-for-profit organisations such as the Australian Digital Alliance and the Australian Library and Information Association.

The organisations first signalled their concerns as far back as 2008, when ACTA negotiations were revealed.

Various academics, as well as the Australian Pirate Party, have also suggested a regulator impact statement would have uncovered these gaps as part of a broad survey of the treaty.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade sought to assure Finance that the treaty would involve no new regulations and and that "any impact of the treaty will primarily occur overseas, on overseas companies, or on Australian businesses operating overseas".

"Australia's existing domestic laws for enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights already meet the standards required by ACTA, and therefore they will not need to be enhanced or otherwise changed in order to implement the treaty," it told Finance in the documents.

While ACTA was hailed as vital to advancing copyright compliance especially over the internet by Government and rights lobbies, the treaty has encountered significant opposition in Europe.

The joint select committee has dubbed ACTA as “controversial” in the light of its submissions and hearings (pdf).

Its recommendation to the Government is expected later this year.

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