ACTA: All Global Treaties are Local

A nice reminder, courtesy of Michael Geist , that the battle over the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is going to get messier the more that groups directly affected by but excluded from the talks are heard and, most importantly, are listened to.

From Mexico: President of the Senate Commission on Science and Technology, Senator Francisco Javier Castellón Fonseca, is calling for increased transparency in ACTA talks in order to understand their potential impact on digital copyright issues generally and Internet Service Providers specifically.

This is important for three reasons.

1. Politically, Senator Castellón Fonseca, represents the left-leaning PRD, which can be expected to champion individuals’ user rights. The PRD has 127 out of 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 26 out of 129 Senate seats. In Mexico currently there are no organized consumer or users’ groups dealing with copyright issues; with a political champion, this could change, making ACTA implementation (to say nothing of other copyright reforms) more difficult.

2. Mexico may also be starting to consider the economic and technological effects of copyright, rather than simply its cultural aspects. The same Senator made remarks to this effect in 2008.

3. The Senate Commission on Science and Technology is responsible for ISP-related issues, and ISPs have a lot of clout in Mexican politics: Telmex has a virtual monopoly on Mexican Internet access and is owned by Carlos Slim, the third-richest man in the world, according to Forbes.

Simply put, so far as Internet access issues are concerned, all roads to Mexican copyright reform and ACTA implementation run through Telmex. That Mexican ISPs and the content businesses and groups have been trying unsuccessfully for a couple of years now to come to an agreement on ISP liability (Mexico currently has no laws dealing with this issue) tells me that Telmex’s interests do not align directly with those of the copyright owners that have been behind the treaty.

In a sense, it might not matter much for Mexico what the ACTA requires: if it doesn’t make Telmex happy, then implementation will be a long, long time coming. Negotiating a treaty in secret may help get something signed, but if powerful interests are not listened to, they will, in the end, make themselves heard.

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