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Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement overview

For the effects on software patents, see: ACTA and software patents.
Can you help? This needs to be reviewed in light of the November 2010 publication of the proposed-final text

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a proposed international trade agreement. It is primarily being advanced by the USA, EU, Japan, and Switzerland.

(ESP Wiki hosted two big leaks in early 2010, but the official text has now been published.)

Despite the name, this agreement covers much more than counterfeiting.


What's in it?

(see ACTA and software patents)
  • Intermediaries, such as ISPs, can be required to remove or block files at the request of the holder of any copyright, patent, trademark, or any other form of "intellectual property", without a court case
  • ISPs can be forced to hand over identifying information about Internet users to right holders, without a court case
  • Circumventing or removing a "technical protection mechanism" becomes illegal

Participating countries

Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States (US).[1] With 27 countries represented by the EU, there is a total of 39 countries involved in ACTA.

Government bodies supporting, criticising

Expressing full support:

Expressing criticism:


(For the various leaks and texts, see above)
  • 2010-02-25: leak of 2-page document[2]
  • 2008-07-29: Second ACTA negotiating round, 29‑31 July 2008, in Washington
  • 2008-06-23: European Commission holds "stakeholder consultation", Brussels
  • 2008-06-03: First ACTA negotiating round, 3‑4 June 2008, in Geneva
  • 2008-05-22: leaked ACTA proposal published by WikiLeaks from 2007[3]
  • 2008-04-14: EU: negotiating guidelines for ACTA formally adopted by the Council
  • 2007-11-xx: Australia holds consultations about ACTA participation[6]
  • 2007-01-xx: Canada privately circulates secret ACTA discussion paper[7]

Who can approve or reject the final version?


In the USA, the final version could get classified as an "executive agreement", in which case the president can simply sign it. Opponents of ACTA would like it to be classified as a "treaty",[8] which would require a vote (in the Senate? Congress? or both?).

(See also: ACTA's Constitutional Problem, 15 Nov 2010, Pijip)

All other parties

For the other parties, there are two constraints. One is their internal approval process, and the other is their international trade relations. That second issue is even a problem for large economies such as the EU, as described by German patent attorney Axel Horns:[9]

In case the EU Council accepting the result of the negotiations conducted by the EU Commission, the political pressure on the MEPs to accept the Agreement surely will be enormous.

As we recently have seen with regard to the SWIFT agreement, the Parliament most probably will be threatened by prospects of a significant deterioration of U.S. - Europe relations in case of a rejection of ACTA.

New or old

ACTA changes existing law without changing the text. It changes the nature of certain laws, moving them from national legislation which is controlled by Congress/Parliament to an international treaty which would be very difficult to change. ACTA thus chains our laws to the 20th century and makes mistakes (such as DRM laws) very difficult to review.

People arguing in favour of ACTA sometimes minimise the impact of ACTA by saying that it doesn't create any new crimes or offences. That may or may not be true, but it ignore the above, crucial problem. It greatly broadens the responsibility, investigation, and enforcement of existing crimes and offences.

A lot of requirements of ACTA already exist in the US and the European Union.[10]

(Terminology: in the EU, the set of domains that are currently under the control of the EU institutions is the acquis communautaire.)

Does not require software patents

ACTA makes all patents more dangerous, but it contains nothing requiring signatories to allow software to be patented. From the text of the leaked 25-August-2010 draft, we can see that this is explicitly stated:


1. This Agreement shall be without prejudice to provisions governing the availability, acquisition, scope, and maintenance of intellectual property rights contained in a Party's law.

2. This Agreement does not create any obligation on a Party to apply measures where a right in intellectual property is not protected under the laws and regulations of that Party.

Related pages on ESP Wiki

External links

About the final text

Overview pages


European Union

Questions officially submitted to the European Commission

The European Commission is obliged to respond to questions officially submitted by members of the European Parliament. They have to do so in a certain time limit (six weeks?).