Techdirt has brought to our attention an interesting turn of events in adopting the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, also known as ACTA. EU Council has adopts ACTA and will thus pass it for vote in the European Parliament. EU Council is the place where national ministers get together to adopt laws and coordinate policies. Interestingly, the policy regarding international trade was hidden in a meeting regarding issues of agriculture and fisheries.
The group of some 40 ministers approved a lot of industry related issues and then moved on to ACTA. The press release regarding the approval states the following on the last page:
The Council adopted a decision authorising the signing of an anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) with Australia, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States.
ACTA is aimed at establishing an international framework to improve the enforcement of intellectual property right laws and create improved international standards for actions against large-scale infringements of intellectual property. Negotiations were concluded in November 2010.
There is nothing wrong with fighting piracy as such, but online freedom advocates have cast their opinions that ACTA will approve of a culture where consumers rights' are infringed and seriously deteriorated in the future. One example of this is in an article by ARS Technica, from 3 years ago, where Nate Anderson explains that the real threat of ACTA is in the work the agreement would require ISPs and other service providers to do:
The second key provision here is the creation of a legal regime that would "encourage ISPs to cooperate with right holders in the removal of infringing material" by giving them safe harbor from certain legal threats. The US DMCA already provides this sort of thing via its "takedown notice" provisions, but in countries like Canada, this could be seen as a way of sneaking DMCA-type rules in through the back door.
Regardless of what you think of issues like ACTA, online piracy and such, it is very interesting such agreements are trying to be passed without proper discussion. Laws bringing control and regulation to the internet in vast quantities could also endanger the innovative online ecosystem of services and products that has been developed through startups and other entities.
Europe really can't risk losing any of this and therefore agreements like ACTA should be carefully considered from all points of view.
Image by EU Parliament