Negotiators have published a finished text of the controversial treaty, after ironing out final details
The final text of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) treaty was unveiled by negotiators including the US and the European Commission on Monday, following the release of a near-final version in early October.
The treaty has been criticised for going too far in its provisions to counter intellectual property infringement and in its penalties for infringement, and some have said in the process of negotiating it has undermined democratic processes.
The final draft of the proposed agreement will next face legal verification before being submitted to participating countries’ respective authorities for domestic approval, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR). The text is available on the USTR’s website.
The final version requires nations to include border searches, injunctions and fines in their enforcement measures, as well as the seizure of equipment used in suspected infringement activities.
The final draft also requires countries to take steps against online copyright infringement. Participants include Australia, Canada, the EU, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the US.
The treaty will “assist parties to the agreement in their efforts to effectively combat the infringement of intellectual property rights, in particular the proliferation of counterfeiting and piracy, which undermines legitimate trade and the sustainable development of the world economy,” the USTR argued in a statement.
The US Chamber of Commerce, which supports tougher enforcement measures, welcomed the release.
“As we continue to review this final text, we are optimistic that this agreement will enhance international cooperation among nearly 40 countries by establishing a meaningful and effective framework for the protection of IP rights consistent with current laws,” the group said in a statement.
In a draft resolution published earlier this month, some MEPs said they were “deeply concerned that no legal base was established before the start of the ACTA negotiations”.
In the draft resolution the MEPs said the European Parliament must be given time to assess the treaty and said the European Commission “must return to the negotiating table if the results of the impact assessment so require”.
The MEPs’ stance echoes that of La Quadrature du Net, an activist group critical of ACTA, which has criticised negotiators for giving the impression that the European Parliament’s approval will amount to a rubber-stamp.
“Citizens and their elected representatives are put before a ‘fait accompli’,” stated La Quadrature du Net spokesman Jérémie Zimmermann in October. “Ratification of ACTA must be opposed by all means.”
Criticism from US academics
The EC has said the draft is designed to work within the existing framework of EU law and thus there should not be anything preventing the European Parliament from ratifying it.
More than 75 US law academics late last month published an open letter to President Barack Obama criticising ACTA and arguing that the treaty falls under the authority of the US Congress, and not the US President.
“The Administration has stated that ACTA will be negotiated and implemented not as a treaty, but as a sole executive agreement. We believe that this course may be unlawful, and it is certainly unwise,” the academics stated in the letter. “The use of a sole executive agreement for ACTA appears unconstitutional.”