James Love's Notes from the April 16, 2002 NGO E-Commerce Roundtable.

1. Hague Treaty

Most of what was said yesterday at the NGO Roundtable on the Hague Treaty was for background, but it was also some surprising stuff. The next round is an important meeting in the Hague next week. Jeff Kovar from State is heading the US effort. It was clear from the briefing that there are very big differences between the US and other member countries over the future of the treaty. I can report that there are competing ideas, one is to shrink the convention to something that looks at a smaller set of issues, such as the cross border enforcement of contracts. Another is the big "comprehensive" treaty approach, that includes speech torts, IPR, etc. These issues will be the focus of quite important negotiations next week. There was quite a bit of discussion of the public policy issues related to the enforcement of non-negotiated contracts, particuarly but not exclusively in terms of e-commerce, as well as other issues, such as the use of contracts to frustrate the first sale doctrine, or to limit linking of web pages. The American Library Association was quite focused on the importance of the contract provisions to libraries, saying the Hague provisions were worse than UCITA, which was highly controverial in the USA. CPTech asked that the Hague negotiators protect national discretion on issues such as the first sale doctrine, or the control of anticompetitive practices, based upon WTO/TRIPS provisions. It was also pointed out that any treaty that included speech torts would be a disaster. The ALCU made a nice presentation on use of defamation cases and bankruptcy provisions to control dissents in China. State was asked to be a better advocate of US values on free speech in Hague discussions.