EU to stay away from Acta signing ceremony

The European Union, along with Mexico and Switzerland, will not be signing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement at a ceremony on Saturday.Only those countries whose national governments have approved the secretively drawn-up treaty will take part in the ceremony, which will take place in Japan.

The European Union, along with Mexico and Switzerland, will not be signing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement at a ceremony on Saturday.

Only those countries whose national governments have approved the secretively drawn-up treaty will take part in the ceremony, which will take place in Japan. According to a European Commission statement quoted by Out-Law.com, the Council of Ministers still has to authorise an EU representative to the sign the document, after which the European Parliament will have to give its approval.

The parliament has already passed a motion supporting Acta, which was finalised a year ago and which deals with civil and criminal enforcement relating to copyright and trademark infringement. However, this does not equate to formal approval.

"The EU has not yet completed its internal procedures authorising the signature, therefore it will not be signing Acta at this event," the Commission said, explaining that a representative cannot even be nominated before the treaty is translated into all the EU languages. The deadline for signing is 1 May 2013.

Despite Acta's nature as a law enforcement harmonisation agreement, it is officially classified as a trade treaty, which is how it was possible to formulate the document behind closed doors. Leaked cables published through Wikileaks have shown how the US pushed for Acta to be written without the oversight of organisations such as the G8 and OECD.

Further leaks showed how the EU resisted a US and Japanese plan to force all signatories to create criminal offences for breaking the digital rights management (DRM) on locked-down content. If the US and Japan had succeeded, it would have also become a criminal offence to make or distribute DRM-cracking software, or even to distribute content that had had its DRM broken.

Early drafts of Acta also mandated that people unlawfully distributing copyrighted content online should have their internet connections cut off, and that people who record films in cinemas should go to jail.

In the end, the final Acta text was so watered down that the US is now attempting to achieve its original aims elsewhere. It is trying to get similar proposals to those excised from the treaty added to the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, which covers the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam and Malaysia.

The parties that negotiated Acta include Australia, Canada, the European Union and its member states, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, and the US.