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Science

EU releases draft of ACTA anti-piracy treaty

The European Union, the United States and eight other negotiating countries have released the latest draft of ACTA, a trade agreement aimed at combating global counterfeiting.

ACTA has been under negotiation since 2007

ACTA has been under negotiation since 2007

The release Wednesday of a draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, ACTA, is the latest in the fight against what United States trade official Ron Kirk has called the "global crime wave" of counterfeiting. Although there have been leaked drafts before, this is the first official release of the treaty.

The European Union, the US and other negotiating countries including Mexico and South Korea hope the treaty will help combat international piracy and trade in counterfeit goods.

"This work represents a significant victory for those who care about protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights," Kirk said in a statement.

The agreement, which has been under negotiation since 2007, would not change participants' national laws on counterfeits, trademarks and patents, but seeks common ground among countries to enforce rules protecting intellectual property. The agreement would encompass everything from fake Fendi bags and the designs of medicines to online piracy of music and movies.

Sigh of relief for industry

ACTA critics who had feared the treaty could undermine online activities may be breathing a sigh of relief in the wake of the Wednesday release: several proposals that could have seen firms like internet service providers (ISPs) held responsible for copyright infringement committed by their users were notably missing from the draft.

Of particular concern to industry was the possibility of so-called "secondary liability" language, which would require Internet companies to cut off access to users who violate copyright protections online and possibly even hold the companies themselves liable for violations. This could have far-reaching implications for ISPs and popular online platforms such as Facebook and Google-owned video-sharing site YouTube.

But the ACTA draft released Wednesday is more flexible, simply committing signatory countries to "take effective action against an act of intellectual property rights infringement which takes place in the digital environment."

Ron Kirk, the former mayor of the city of Dallas, is the American representative in the ACTA negotiations

Ron Kirk, the former mayor of the city of Dallas, is the American representative in the ACTA negotiations

ACTA still has its critics

The treaty has attracted criticism from academics, firms and public interest organizations who see it as an American attempt to export its own standards for protecting intellectual property under the guise of a trade agreement.

The treaty had also been criticized by intellectual property activists who feared it could be used to impose tougher rules on developing countries than already agreed at the World Trade Organization, in particular threatening trade among poorer states in life-saving generic drugs.

The treaty does, however, exempt patent infringement, such as some generic drugs, from border searches even though countries can seize suspected pirated goods in transit.

India and Brazil have challenged the EU at the WTO over seizures of generic drugs, but EU trade spokesman John Clancy reportedly told news agency Reuters that such seizures had never been EU policy.

Author: Sophie Tarr (AP / Reuters)
Editor: Cyrus Farivar

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