At a signing ceremony in Tokio, representatives from the European Union and 22 member states have signed the controversial ACTA treaty. Signatories include the UK, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. The five remaining member states — Cyprus, Germany, Estonia Netherlands and Slovakia, are also expected to sign soon.
ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a proposed international treaty that would establish standards for the enforcement of intellectual property rights to prevent digital and physical counterfeits. The treaty calls for the creation of an “ACTA committee” to make treaty amendments, for which public or judicial review are not required, according to Wikipedia. The panel would also operate outside of the scope of the World Trade Organizations or the United Nations.
Critics argue about the scope and the undemocratic methods used to pass the treaty. ACTA is said to tilt the balance of International Property Rights unfairly towards the copyright holders, where future disputes on competing interests will benefit to those rights holders while placing a higher criminal burden on individuals. Critics have also protested how the treaty was written by industry representatives and government trade reps, without any access by elected representatives, independent business, the press, public interest groups, legal scholars, independent economists, and others.
Out of Europe, Poland has notably seen the strongest populist support against the bill. Thousands have demonstrated in the streets in opposition, as shown in the video below. An anecdote of how big of an issue this is in Poland, while researching this topic last evening I did a “past hour” search of “ACTA” on Google news to keep up with new developments. Chrome then asked me if I wanted to translate the Google News page from Polish to English, because Polish news covered the whole page.
The fight against ACTA will likely last until summer, where ACTA will need to be ratified in the European Parliament by the countries that have signed. What’s become apparent is that ACTA will negatively impact startup companies by increasing the risks copyright trolls can threaten startups with, and will stifle innovation by placing the burden of proof on startup companies.
You can find out more on how to protest ACTA at Stop ACTA.