What is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement?

Pablo Garcia
Pablo Garcia
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Woman with hand on her hip

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a proposed international trade agreement between the European Union and 10 other countries, including the US, to strengthen copyright protection. The aim of the agreement is to curtail commercial scale counterfeiting and piracy of intellectual property. The other signatories to the agreement are Australia, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and Switzerland.

Primarily, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement applies to the creative and innovative industries. The agreement also applies to Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Any of the signatory countries may use it own copyright laws when they are more extensive in protection or enforcement of copyright. The agreement does not apply to a signing party when the goods in dispute do not meet the definition of intellectual property under its own laws.

The agreement applies to pirated copyright goods, which are copies made without the permission of the rights holder, and counterfeit trademark goods, which are packages and goods bearing a trademark identical to the registered trademark without permission. Under the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, each signatory allows access to the courts of its country to any party wronged under the terms of the agreement. The courts of any signatory country may also order the infringing party to pay appropriate damages, including legal fees, to the rights holder. ACTA allows judicial authorities of the signatory countries to issue orders to stop the infringement and to have the pirated or counterfeited goods destroyed.

The signatories of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement are each responsible for promoting effective enforcement of the agreement. This includes appropriate customs procedures and the use of criminal sanctions under the agreement when necessary. The agreement contemplates that the signatories will balance copyright protection with the principles of freedom of expression, fair process and privacy.

The drafters of ACTA expect it to be the most effective plurilateral agreement concerning intellectual property rights enforcement yet achieved. They also hope that it will become an international model for dealing with large counterfeiting and piracy enterprises. The drafters believe that the agreement’s provisions promoting strong enforcement of copyright protections will enhance international relations.

The scope of ACTA is limited to business and commercial interests. It has no application to non-commercial possession by an individual of a small amount of pirated or counterfeit material. Initially, some criticized the negotiations surrounding the agreement as too secretive. The Office of the US Trade Representative later made the draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement available for review and invited public written comment on the agreement.

Discussion Comments


@Mammmood - The bottom line is that all countries involved have to do their own enforcement for the protection of intellectual property. If they don’t, the agreement is pretty much worthless, regardless of what is written down on paper.

Russia, which you cite as an example, had a real problem with pirated digital music. I remember there was this one online site based in Russia that was selling entire albums for just a few dollars.

Supposedly this was even “legal” by Russian standards, because they were treating it as online radio, not as pirated music. They jumped through a few hoops in their legal definition.

However, the U.S. was not impressed. They began threatening trade sanctions until finally the Russian police cracked down and stopped the operation.


@Mammmood - I’m surprised that under the ACTA agreement offenders can be taken to courts in countries that have been wronged. There must be some sort of extradition clause or something like that in the treaty.

I didn’t think that U.S. courts (to use one example) could exert any sovereignty over criminals in other countries, but I guess they can.


While the article doesn’t list all the countries that are signatories to the intellectual property agreement, I would hope that Russia and China are at the top of the list. In my opinion these are some of the worst offenders.

I can definitely vouch for Asia. I lived in Indonesia for a long time and pirated software was everywhere. Most of it came from China. Some time ago the United States began to flex its muscle and exert pressure on China, and then the Chinese started cracking down (so it seemed) and also launched a public relations offensive.

They showed videos on television of bulldozers razing factories that were distributing pirated software. Of course I thought the whole thing was a farce. Pirated software is easily distributed over the Internet. The videos were worthless in that sense, but they made for good visuals to say the least.

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