Trade Minister Dr Craig Emerson is travelling to Tokyo today to sign the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in the hopes of stemming global piracy.
ACTA aimed to introduce a legal framework for 27 countries on copyright protection in an effort to curb the rampant piracy of goods ranging from music to medicine.
The agreement has drawn harsh criticism from privacy and copyright activists since discussions began in 2008, because of what appeared to be hardline tactics to crack down on piracy — for example, the requirement for signing nations to introduce a three-strikes law — and because of the discussions' clandestine nature. However, the finalised, less strict agreement, completed in October, was received better. For example, the Australian Greens had been wary of the agreement during its various draft rounds, but gave the final version a tentative tick of approval.
Ten countries and the European Union are attending the signing ceremony, the minister's office said, although reportedly the EU, Mexico and Switzerland will not be actually signing the document. A statement from the EU reportedly said that it wouldn't be signing because it hadn't completed internal procedures, such as translating the treaty into all of the EU languages and appointing an EU representative to sign the document.
Australia doesn't have to change any laws to be part of the agreement, Emerson's office said, saying instead that it would be trading partners that would be adapting their laws to meet Australia's intellectual property (IP) enforcement standards. This means that Australian and other countries with IP protections would benefit from the agreement.
"ACTA builds on World Trade Organisation standards to promote international trade in legitimate intellectual property, by elevating standards of enforcement," he said.
"This treaty will help stem the burgeoning global trade in counterfeit and pirate materials, worth many billions annually.
"The treaty will also help stop the unwitting purchase by consumers of low-quality counterfeit and pirated material."