An agreement that has been years in the making, ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement), was finally signed in Japan over the weekend. The initiative aims to respond to the global trade of counterfeited and pirated goods, including digital works on the Internet.
Controversy has surrounded the initiative over the years. Some have feared that private interests – particularly in the US – were pushing their own strict enforcement strategies on other nations (including my own, Canada).
The initial signatories of ACTA this past Saturday include Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand Singapore, and the US. But as Michael Geist points out on his blog, the agreement doesn’t actually kick in just yet:
ACTA stipulates that it takes effect when six countries have deposited instruments of ratification, acceptance, or approval. In other words, most countries must still ratify the agreement (much like the WIPO Internet treaties, signing indicates general approval of an agreement but being bound by the terms requires ratification).
The ACTA document, which we have included below, begins by saying that “effective enforcement of intellectual property rights is critical to sustaining economic growth across all industries.” It’s noteworthy that representatives present during the ACTA negotiations declined to sign the agreement this time. Back in January, a European academic group claimed that ACTA’s enforcement measures were unlawful:
Within the EU legal framework there are currently no provisions on criminal enforcement of intellectual property rights. ACTA, therefore, is by nature outside the EU law and would require additional legislation on the EU level.
It’s not certain whether this is the main sticking point for EU reps, but Mexico and Switzerland (also present during negotiations) declined to sign this time as well.
It’s not surprising that Japan, where media organizations are fierce in their defense of copyright infringement, has signed on to ACTA. We recently told you about how members of the RIAJ brought a $3 million class-action suit against the tiny file-sharing website TubeFire.
Here’s the ACTA agreement in its entirety.