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The Struggle for Net Neutrality

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Launched on October 23, 2007, America, the EU, Switzerland and Japan began negotiating a new intellectual property enforcement treaty, ACTA. Other nations as well, including Canada, Australia, Korea, New Zealand, Mexico, Jordan, Singapore, and the UAE. Ostensibly for counterfeit goods protection, critics say it's more about Internet distribution and information technology rules to subvert Net Neutrality, privacy, and personal freedoms.

Powerful interests want stronger global intellectual property rights, and are pursuing them through the:

-- WTO;

-- World Customs Organization (WCO, "the only intergovernmental organisation exclusively focused on Customs matters);"

-- the G 8;

-- the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) Advisory Committee on Enforcement: WIPO is a UN agency "dedicated to developing an accessible international intellectual property system which reward creativity, stimulates innovation and contributes to economic development...;" and

-- the Intellectual Property Experts' Group's (IPR) protection and enforcement efforts to "achiev(e Pacific region) free and open trade and investment."

So far, few details are known, yet ACTA is being secretly fast-tracked to completion.

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Concerned Americans got some information through Freedom of Information (FOA) requests. Canadians also through Canada's Access to Information Act (AIA).

Of concern are provisions endangering consumer privacy, civil liberties, legitimate commerce, restrictions on developing nations' rights to choose their preferred policy options, and, pivotal for this article, a free and open Internet.

The US Trade Representative's (USTR) Fact Sheet and 2008 "Special 301" report shows an intent to create tougher intellectual property enforcement standards than under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). If successful, they'll override national sovereignty, be binding on ACTA members, and give them enough power to enforce global compliance.

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) is "a not-for-profit association registered in twenty European countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, open standards."

In 2008, Brussels rebuffed its request for ACTA documents saying:

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"the documents contain negotiating directives for the negotiation of the above mentioned agreement. These negotiations are still in progress. Disclosure of this information could impede the proper conduct of the negotiation."

In appealing the ruling, FFII accused the EU of "a gross violation of the basic democratic principles (these nations are) supposed to stand for." In a November 10, 2008 press release, it said:

"The EU Council of Ministers refuses to release secret (ACTA) documents. (This) secrecy fuels concerns that the treaty may give patent trolls the means to extort companies, undermine access to low-cost generic medicines, lead to monitoring all citizens' Internet communications and criminalize peer-to-peer electronic file sharing."

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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