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Aidan Hiljeh

An Introduction to ACTA: The Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement

Mar 20 2012, 04:06 PM by

SOPA and PIPA were met with so much resistance from the internet community, several key politicians in Washington decided to distance themselves as far away from the controversial bills as possible. A blackout movement that saw popular sites like Wikipedia, Google, Reddit and Mozilla speak out against the proposals with action was apparently the final straw that resulted in both being put on the shelf. Unfortunately for SOPA/PIPA critics, there is another bill out there, and this one could be much, much worse.
Enter ACTA
ACTA is being touted as the latest government-backed bill that poses a threat to free speech on the internet. The Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement is a multinational treaty that has already been signed by quite a few of the world’s most powerful nations, including the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea and 22 member states of the European Union. Similar to SOPA and PIPA, this particular agreement aims to introduce standards that enforce regulations on the rights of intellectual property. However, it is once again the broad language that has been leaked that leads critics to believe the bill is overstepping boundaries.

One of the biggest issues free speech crusaders have with ACTA is the secrecy surrounding the process behind the scenes. Critics claim that the negotiations are taking place with little to no input from the public, while civil society groups and developing nations are said to have been excluded from the talks entirely. To make matters more alarming, ACTA is coming together outside of the Word Trade Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization and other groups that currently govern intellectual property and other global issues the bill is targeting.
Key Elements of ACTA
ACTA is pretty extensive and much is still unclear, but here are some of the aspects opponents have taken issue with so far:

More Restrictive than SOPA & PIPA - According to Connor Adams Sheets, a reporter for the International Business Times, there are at least five ACTA elements that are comparable, yet worse than SOPA and PIPA. Among them are the overwhelming support of participating nations, even vaguer language, the ease of which the bill can be enacted, its lack of transparency and limited visibility on the public and political level.

Threat to Sensitive Economical Resources - The internet community is once again concerned about the rights of free speech, but ACTA is about establishing standards beyond intellectual property. Food and medicine is also being targeted, and this has some critics believing that the access citizens have to these essential resources could be affected.

Global Implications - PIPA was shot down of course, but it got close enough to becoming a reality. Had it passed, its main focus would have been targeting sites dealing in copyright infringement and counterfeit goods outside of the United States. ACTA could potentially span most of the developed world, including the U.S. and all the nations involved in the treaty. Opponents say its implications will be felt in the countries that signed up for the standards as well as those that were shut out of the negotiations.

So there you have it - the ACTA rundown in about as convenient of a nutshell we can cram it into for now. This thing has so many legs to it and yet there is still so much we don’t know. That could change if more people step up and let their voices be heard. ACTA opponents are encouraging U.S. citizens and businesses to contact their local House representatives and demand more information about the treaty.

What do you guys think about ACTA? Is it no big deal, or should we be concerned?

Posted in Current Events

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