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3rd post in a series on the government's response to  Hargreaves

What does an admission of involvement in ACTA say about the British government’s international policy on IPR?

Coverage of  the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)  has focussed on the EU negotiators, but a new British policy document reveals that  British officials were active participants in the ACTA

negotiations.   Although couched in diplomatic language, the British appear to  propose  support for ACTA  and to other bilateral agreements.

The revelation came in one of a raft of documents released at the beginning of the summer, along with  the government’s  response to the Hargreaves review of IPR. The British government is proposing ACTA as a necessary requirement for businesses working overseas:

One of the key problems for IP-intensive UK businesses operating overseas is enforcement. .We have been actively involved in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations (ACTA) which have been conducted amongst a group of 37 mainly developed countries and will set benchmark standards on enforcement.

Moving forward, the British government will: “pursue IP objectives bilaterally, and in plurilateral groups”.

The British policy document contains a defence of the decision to draft the ACTA outside the conventional structures such as WIPO. The document states that  progress on international IP matters was not possible within the conventional structures such as WIPO, therefore is was necessary to outside them:

Entrenched differences between developed and developing countries have meant that significant change to global IP policy has been almost impossible to agree since TRIPS in 1996. The political divide between North and South continues to affect multilateral negotiations. It has spilled over into other international negotiations, including Doha and on climate change, although there is little linkage between the fora. This has increasingly led developed countries to seek agreements outside the multilateral fora, for example ACTA. Agreeing global solutions to the global challenges facing IP, such as backlogs, has been virtually impossible. This has also had an impact on the quality of services WIPO provides, because it is very difficult to agree even minor technical reforms.

The British government wants to pursue IP policy objectives within the G8 group  of leading economies, and within the OECD.  The document states an objective to:

 Raise IP as part of wider international economic engagement, such as with the G20 and the OECD. IP discussions can be very insular. It is important to engage economic officials in capitals as well as negotiators, who often taken an intransigent line.

 This statement should be seen in the context of  the open clashes between civil society and government representatives  at the French-led eG8 earlier this year, and again  at  the OECD meeting this July. In both cases, leading academics and citizens advocates opposed the strong pro-copyright industry stance taken by the governmental delegates. According to the IGP blog, it mirrored the fight over the Telecoms Package.

 Looking at the other post-Hargreaves policy documents, which suggest harsher measures for Internet copyright enforcement, one does not get the impression that the British will be aligning with civil society, rather that they may seek to push some of their own draconian measures into the international arena.

 PLEASE CITE AS: Monica Horten (2011) British were active in ACTA negotiations 1 September 2011 . This article is licensed under a Creative Commons License for  non-commercial purposes, with the author attributed.


Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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