ACTA-lite a pirate delight?

The final draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has dropped the heavy-handed proposals to crackdown on pirates.
Written by Darren Pauli, Contributor

The final draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has dropped heavy-handed proposals to crackdown on pirates.

Previous versions of the agreement drew the ire of anti-copyright activists through proposals that the 27 participating countries adopt harsh anti-counterfeiting policies.

The dumped clauses include the controversial three-strike policy, which would see users cut-off from the internet for repeat copyright infringement, much of the agreement's former push to make internet providers liable for subscribers' piracy, and (unless clauses already exist under domestic law) the parts of the agreement allowing action against users who circumvent technological access controls.

Softer ACTA

(Feather muted image by Nigel Clarke, CC2.0)

The draft treaty (PDF) is the final release born from the 11th and the last round of discussions took place over 10 days in Japan last month.

Canadian law professor and ACTA expert, Michael Geist, said the ACTA draft was a "far cry" from earlier proposals.

"The draft released is a far cry from that proposal, with the intermediary liability provisions largely removed and the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) digital lock provisions much closer to the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) internet treaty mode," Geist wrote on his blog.

"In its place, is a chapter that is best viewed as ACTA ultra-lite."

The softer agreement is part of a gradual roll-back on tough clauses, and now centres on cooperation between business and government.

"Each party shall promote cooperation, where appropriate, among the competent authorities responsible for enforcement of intellectual property rights ... cooperation shall be conducted consistent with relevant international agreements as well as subject to the domestic laws, policies, resource allocation and law enforcement priorities of the parties," the text read.

But despite the treaty make-over, Pirate Party president Rodney Serkowski attacked the ACTA negotiation process as undemocratic.

"The text has shifted dramatically from the initial documents revealed by Wikileaks when this secretive treaty was first exposed. In some respects it is a slightly better document than previous leaked drafts, with some sections being watered down; however, at first glance we don't perceive this draft as being any more benign," he said.

Federal Trade Minister Craig Emerson said that Australia was aiming to push its "strong" intellectual property laws to other nations through the agreement.

"[The] ACTA reflects these laws and standards, which we now want to see adopted by other countries," Emerson said in a statement.

"ACTA is important because we are concerned at the scale and growth of the global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods."

A treaty will only be ratified after public and parliamentary scrutiny, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is expected to be signed within weeks by countries including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and the European Union.

The ACTA negotiations follow a new US bill that will essentially prevent users across the world from accessing websites banned under the nation's law by forcing the withdrawal of domain registrations.

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