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European Union: ACTA Signed in Tokyo

(Feb. 7, 2012)

On January 26, 2012, the European Union and 22 of its member countries signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a controversial pact designed to tighten international controls on violations of copyright and other intellectual property laws. A signing ceremony was held in Tokyo, hosted by Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Signing Ceremony of the EU for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) (Outline), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan website (Jan. 26, 2012).) The EU will debate ratification of the agreement in June; it is up to the EU to determine whether member nations can enforce ACTA's provisions. (Peter Stanners, Denmark Signs Contentious Anti-Piracy Agreement, THE COPENHAGEN POST (Jan. 27, 2012).)

The agreement was initially signed on October 1, 2011, in Tokyo, by eight nations: Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United States. The U.S. government described the pact as a:

groundbreaking initiative by key trading partners to strengthen the international legal framework for effectively combating global proliferation of commercial-scale counterfeiting and piracy. In addition to calling for strong legal frameworks, the agreement also includes innovative provisions to deepen international cooperation and to promote strong intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement practices. (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, Office of the United States Trade Representative website (Oct. 1, 2011) [includes link to text of ACTA]; for background see also Wendy Zeldin, Draft Counterfeiting Pact in Final Stages of Completion, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Nov. 18, 2010).)

ACTA has been criticized as potentially censoring Internet content; such concerns have led to large public demonstrations, including those in two Polish cities after that country signed the document. Concern over the impact of ACTA on Internet users has focused on provisions requiring Internet service providers to monitor user activity and cut off those users suspected of posting material in violation of copyright protections. (Stanners, supra.) The organization Avaaz, which describes itself as a “global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere,” has called ACTA a threat to Internet freedom and has begun an online petition against the treaty. (Id.; ACTA: The New Threat to the Net, Avaaz website (Jan. 29, 2012).)