The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is an initiative to impose international standards for enforcing intellectual property right. The plan is to solve the growing problem of counterfeit goods and piracy, which is considered to be a threat to the sustainable development of the world economy, according to the European Commission.
ACTA will deal with the protection of physical goods such as generic medicines, food patents and free circulation of medical information. Digital infringement is also part of the treaty’s regulations. Civil enforcement penalties for copyright infringement will consist of paying damages, though the actual penalty for piracy is still uncertain.
Countries such as Japan, Australia, Canada, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, the United States and 22 of the European Union’s members have signed the treaty. Nevertheless, these signatures solely mark the progress of ratification, which ultimately rests in the hands of the European Parliament.
Early discussions about ACTA took place throughout 2006 and 2007. The negotiations started in June of 2008. During these negotiations some countries requested the text should not be disclosed, meaning public and civil organizations would not be part of the compromise. The leaking of documents to the Internet sparked wider public awareness of the agreement.
The U.S. has already signed ACTA, with both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations having issued executive orders to keep negotiations concerning Internet control legislation secret because it could cause “damage to the national security.”
However, much of the response to ACTA has been negative. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., called the treaty “more dangerous than SOPA,” citing the lack of a congressional vote as his primary concern.
Popular science and technology website Ars Technica was quick to dispel much of the misinformation surrounding ACTA, stating the debate must be “informed by accurate information.” The writer made it clear, though, that ACTA has “both procedural and substantive problems” as it was “negotiated in extreme secrecy by a small group of wealthy nations.”
Mexico, one of the countries previously involved in the ACTA negotiations, has rejected the final agreement. ACTA states that countries can sign the treaty until the end of March next year, although the European Parliament, which is responsible for ratifying the treaty, are set to vote on the agreement this June.