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Europe deals blow to Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)

5 July 2012

European Parliament’s rejection of an international treaty which attempted to strengthen the enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights last night could have impact on the debate in Australia, a Deakin University Professor said today.

Professor Christoph Antons who is a Chief Investigator from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) and an expert on international intellectual property law said the rejection by Europe would make it harder to get international agreement on the issue and also send a negative message to developing countries asked to strengthen their IP enforcement systems.

Intellectual Property or IP covers matters relating to fields such as copyright, trademarks, patents, industrial design or confidential information.

“These countries could say ‘if consumers in European high tech economies do not accept these measures, why should we?’”, Professor Antons said.

”This would be a major setback because one of the aims of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is to establish new international enforcement standards that could be recommended for adoption in other countries.”

Professor Antons said six countries needed to ratify the agreement and the focus will now shift to the ratification discussion in the remaining eight countries that have signed the agreement.

“It is likely that the European rejection and the reasons for it will now be the subject of discussions in countries like Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia,” he said.

Professor Antons said the agreement seeks to establish higher standards in civil and criminal enforcement as well as border measures and enforcement of IP rights in the digital environment in comparison with the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that currently regulates most of these issues at the international level.

“Critics of the agreement were concerned about the ambiguity of terms and the potential impact on third parties.

“They argued there was a lack of balance in the treaty and that that it favoured rights holders, for example by allowing them substantial input to determine the amount of damages to be paid by infringers. ”

Professor Antons said the higher standards had provoked strong reactions and protests, particularly in the internet community which was concerned over the possible impact on Internet privacy and Internet Service Providers.

“The tenor of the protests was not generally against intellectual property rights, but against the way they are currently being applied, with many protesters arguing that the balance in the system has been lost.

“For example, some of the Pirate Parties established in various countries, including Australia, advocate strong reductions in the length of copyright protection, a reform of the patent system and the exclusion of certain subject matter from patentability.

“They have been quite successful in recent state elections in Germany, for example, and are now represented in parliament in four German states.”

Professor Antons said the debates in Europe have some influence on the debate in Australia.

“Last week, the House of Representatives’ Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommended further clarifications of terms of the agreement and not to ratify it until an assessment had been made of the economic and social benefits and costs for Australia.”

“They also wanted to receive a report from the Australian Law Reform Commission which is inquiring into copyright and the digital economy.”

“The Joint Standing Committee further recommended that Australia should have regard to events relating to ACTA in other jurisdictions, like the European Union and the United States of America.”

“It noted that the international reaction “without exception, comes from countries which the Committee considers would have the same interests as Australia.”

Further information

The ARC Centre for Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) is helping to build a creative Australia through cutting edge research spanning the creative industries, media and communications, arts, cultural studies, law, information technology, education and business. It is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

News facts
  • European Parliament rejects Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)
  • Rejection by Europe will make it harder to get international agreement on the issue
  • Rejection sends a negative message to developing countries asked to strengthen their IP enforcement systems.

Media contact

Sandra Kingston
Deakin Media Relations
03 9246 8221/ 0422 005 485
sandra.kingston@deakin.edu.au

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5th July 2012