What Is ACTA?

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ACTA is a 'plurilateral' trade agreement, currently being negotiated between the US, Canada, Japan, the European Union, South Korea, Mexico, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand.

The Ministry for Economic Development (MED) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) are negotiating the agreement on New Zealand's behalf.

ACTA stands for the 'Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement'. Through leaked documents, and statements made by MED/MFAT and other governments, it is apparent that the unauthorised sharing of copyrighted works is also within the scope of ACTA. This means music, movies, books and games, both counterfeited (e.g. buying bootleg DVDs), and non-commercial downloading using file-sharing sites and p2p services. This means it is much less like a trade agreement, and much more like a treaty dealing with trademarks and copyrighted works.

This has caused concern to a number of organisations and individuals, in NZ and internationally, because the content of the negotiations have been kept secret (unlike many similar 'intellectual property' treaties). It is also concerning as leaked documents show that signing on to ACTA may require countries to enact punitive measures such as disconnecting people from the Internet based merely on being accused copyright infringement.

 

Concerns have been voiced that if signed and ratified in the form that has been leaked, ACTA would effectively undercut the public consultation and domestic policy deliberation that has already occured in NZ on copyright issues. It would, some people believe, force New Zealand and other countries to throw out laws that have been developed through open democratic processes, in order to harmonise legislation with this secretly negotiated treaty.

It appears countries that sign up to ACTA will be required to establish third-party liability for copyright infringement (Internet Service Providers being liable for people using their services to illegally download copyrighted material), and may be required to establish 'graduated response/3 strikes' laws forcing ISPs to terminate accounts of those accused (not proven) of copyright violation.