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ACTA can't get its act together

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The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is losing its international momentum following the European Parliament’s rejection of the global treaty, which many member states claim is flawed.

Australia and New Zealand, who have signed the agreement but not ratified it, are under increasing pressure to withdraw their support.

ACTA intends to establish international standards to enforce intellectual property rights, as well as an international legal framework to target generic medicines, counterfeit goods, and copyright infringement online.

The international agreement requires ratification by six of the eleven signatories: the European Union , Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, the US and Switzerland. Mexico has already rejected it and Europe has rejected it.

An Australian government committee report has raised concerns about details of the treaty and has advised against ratifying it until they are cleared.

Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties states, “the Australian government has issued the notice of clarification in relation to the terms of the treaty as recommended in this report and the Australian Law Reform Commission has reported on its inquiry into Copyright and the Digital Economy."

The Australian Financial Review is now reporting further concerns expressed by the committee's deputy chair, Senator Simon Burmingham, who told the newspaper: “It demonstrates that some of the concerns expressed by the committee are shared by the EU and some other jurisdictions as well.

“The negotiating parties perhaps all need to think about returning to the negotiating table rather than just trying to push the existing text through in home jurisdictions,” the senator said.

Australian Greens communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam has urged the Department for a second look, and to conduct a “proper analysis” on the threats to privacy, cheaper medicine and economic interests posed by the agreement.

“In Australia the Committee has taken compelling evidence from a range of experts that sharply contrast with the Australian Government’s uncritical and utopian position on copyright enforcement,” he said.

Among the concerns shared by Australia and New Zealand is the subject of whether the enforcement of criminal penalties for copyright infringement is required and to what extent.

However, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft supports ACTA and managing director Neil Gane said “the notion that ACTA was a secretive agreement is not borne out by the facts, and the agreement is drafted in such a way that fears regarding a rights imbalance in favour of IP rights holders are unfounded. AFACT supports ACTA as a suitable agreement to protect our entertainment and creative industries from global content theft and counterfeit crime.” ®

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