The Mexican Stop ACTA movement and the politicization of Mexican copyright (or, how I spent my winter vacation)

I’m at the Congress of the Humanities and the Social Sciences in Victoria, British Columbia, all this week, so now is as good a time as any to actually highlight some of the things I’ve been working on for the past year.

In late February I went to Mexico to talk with several key individuals responsible for convincing the Mexican Senate to vote unanimously to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in mid-2011. It may have been overshadowed by the January 2012 SOPA protests and the February 2012 anti-ACTA European street protests, but I think it’s easily as remarkable as these two, especially given the context. The norm of Internet freedom originated (like the Internet itself) in the U.S., and there exist a large number of strong civil-society groups in the U.S. and in Europe. Not so in Mexico, where as a few of the people I spoke to mentioned, the lack of a strong institutional champion for the Internet is an ongoing concern.

Anyway, it’s a fascinating and important story, and one with lessons for the ongoing global copyright debate, particularly in developing countries. Anyone interested in copyright/intellectual property politics, online social movements should be trying to understand how a dozen individuals managed to politicize copyright and complicate (to say the least) the designs of the Mexican (and U.S.) governments. Thanks to everyone who agreed to talk with me. If I got anything wrong, let me know at the email address at the end of this post.

The paper is available here. Here’s the abstract:

The February 2012 mass protests in Europe against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) demonstrated an international increase in the political contentiousness of copyright policy. ACTA, a U.S.-led treaty among several developed countries, and Morocco and Mexico, would further strengthen international intellectual property (IP) laws, potentially negatively affecting human rights and freedom of expression.

Possibly as consequential was the Mexican Senate’s June 2011 rejection of the treaty. This not only signaled copyright’s politicization in Mexico, but also reversed the Senate’s previous pro-stronger-copyright position. As a major developing country with strong U.S. ties – the main proponent for stronger copyright – the Mexican copyright debate reveals much about the possible future of developing-country engagement on IP issues. This paper examines the factors that contributed to this rejection. It focuses particularly on the mobilization of Mexican civil society on copyright – a new development in Mexican copyright policymaking.

If you’d like to comment on the paper, which I plan to publish at some point, please feel free to make them in the comment section, or to email me at bhaggart at brocku dot ca. More to come throughout the week.

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