What is ACTA?

ACTA, short for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a treaty for the purpose of defining the standards for the enforcement of intellectual property rights. Its intent is to establish a legal framework within which all countries can operate to enforce intellectual property rights. It was signed into agreement in October 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States. In January 2012, the European Union and 22 of its member states signed as well, bringing the total number of signatories to 31. The public first became aware of ACTA after Wikileaks leaked information about the treaty to the public in 2008. To date, the governments have released no information about the treaty citing “national security” as the reason to keep the details secret. FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to disclose details have been flatly denied by the United States government. As Forbes magazine put it, “If You Thought SOPA Was Bad, Just Wait Until You Meet ACTA”.

The treaty has been secretly negotiated behind the scenes by the governments with virtually no public input. Critics claim that the ACTA bypasses the laws of the participating nations and forces ISP’s across the world to act as a sort of “Internet police”. In addition, it opens up holes allowing it to go much further than the Internet and can include the enforcement of generic drugs, food patents, and more.

According to the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), there are “other plurilateral agreements, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which contains a chapter on IP enforcement that would have state signatories adopt even more restrictive copyright measures than ACTA. Similarly, negotiations over TPP are also held in secret and with little oversight by the public or civil society. These initiatives, negotiated without participation from civil society or the public, are an affront to a democratic world order. EFF will remain vigilant against these international initiatives that threaten to choke off creativity, innovation, and free speech, and will stand with EDRi, FFII, La Quadrature du Net and our other EU fellow traveler organizations in their campaign to defeat ACTA in the European Parliament in January.”

Laws like TPP and ACTA must be watched by the public. After all, SOPA nearly passed unopposed until the American public heard about it and steadfastly opposed.