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An ACTA, an abbreviation for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a multinational treaty that legally binds all the signatory countries to establish international codes and standards for the purposes of enforcing intellectual property rights. Although the agreement was negotiated in 2011 by United States of America, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, Morocco, Japan, Canada and Australia, European Union and other 22 countries became members early this year (January 2012). It is notable that the agreement is yet to be approved by the thirty one signatories hence will only be enforced upon ratification by at least six sovereign countries.
The main objective of the agreement (ACTA) is to come up with an international legal framework that would adequately counter circulation of generic drugs, counterfeit goods and infringement of copyright on the internet. In a bid to carry out its regulatory functions properly, the master minds of the agreement are said to be making further legal arrangements for the much desired extension of its mandate into the existing world trade forums such as the United Nations, World Intellectual Property Organization and World Trade Organization. This pipe dream could be achieved by the agreement on condition that its new governing agencies are operational outside the aforementioned world trade forums.
Advantages of the ACTA
There are so many advantages that are associated with the operations of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement as far as regulations of counterfeit products and infringement of copyrights on the internet is concerned. Taking into consideration that there is a serious increase in the trade of counterfeit products as well as uncontrolled piracy of copyrighted works across the world, the agreement will be very instrumental in monitoring and controlling the continuity of such illegal global trade that swindles genuine producers, manufacturers and innovators of these products fortunes and lot more sums of money (New York Times 2012). All categories of producers will most likely benefit from their products once this kind of an illegal trade is brought to an end courtesy of ACTA.
Most importantly, the ACTA will also surpass all the existing product regulatory boards and consumer protection agencies in respective member states, for instance the expansive European Union or the larger United States, in terms of controlling the circulation of counterfeit products in all parts of the world where all the existing organizations dealing with the protection of intellectual property such as Pharmaceutical Research and manufacturers of America and MPAA have altogether tremendously. The subsequent elimination of generic drugs from the global market will lead to an enhancement of consumer safety all over the world because 15% of global deaths are caused by fake poisonous generic drugs whose manufacturers and places of origin could not be traced (European Commission 2012).
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Furthermore, the latest survey carried out by International Standard Organization to determine effectiveness of ACTA has revealed that various agencies, network and legal framework is far much capable of containing all forms of infringement of copyrighted intellectual property on the internet which is the most serious crime besides cyber crimes.
Disadvantages of ACTA
Even though so many benefits would potentially come with the formation and eventual enforcement of ACTA, there are a number of limitations associated with the treaty negotiated and signed by the world leading economies. As much as the agreement is geared towards tackling counterfeited products and the eagerly awaited enforcement of copyright, the imminent implantation of the widely speculated file-sharing policies under the umbrella of the stringent criminal sanctions will greatly stop sharing of culture and information between members of different countries on the internet. This would be interpreted as a gross violation of the human right of expression and access to information.
On the same magnitude, the agreement will equally function to curtail the operations of the entertainment industries online on the basis that only copyrighted materials could be availed on the internet. Bearing in mind that billions of people get information from the internet through various search engines and software programs, 80% of the world populations will be left in the dark unable to access free information and entertainment (New York Times 2012). Following the high degree of censorship on internet users by the recommended agencies affiliated to the agreement such as Fast track negotiating authority, their privacy and freedom will be highly compromised. As such, the agreement will reduce the efficiency of the internet as we know it today.
Quests to Stop ACTA
In a reaction to the negotiation of ACTA by various governments motivated by the desire to tackle large scale commercialized violation of Intellectual Property Rights, people in Europe and the rest of the world are protesting what they term as “looming threats” to fundamental human rights such as freedom and right to privacy. According to the content of the letter written by Free Knowledge Institute (FKI) and Free Software Foundation (FSF), ACTA is directly responsible for the development of the much admonished culture of suspicion and surveillance which is seen a serious violation of the rights of European citizens namely privacy to communication and freedom of expression.
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The internet service providers on their side are concerned with the wild thoughts that ACTA will hold them accountable for the crimes committed by their individual subscribers. ACTA therefore curtails the internet operations, suppress transparency and democracy, compromise privacy and data protection, illegally declare internet services provider liable for the crime committed by their subscribers and violate other human rights.