ACTA: What it is and why you should care
Since news first surfaced about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart, PROTECT IP (PIPA) in October of 2011, the public has become increasingly aware of the problems with the crime of online piracy in America. However, most people are unaware of the similar act, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, also known as ACTA.
ACTA was introduced in October 2007 as a treaty between 39 countries that is similar to SOPA and PIPA, but significantly more expansive. However, it is not yet in effect because it has not yet been ratified by the European Union (EU). The countries involved in the act are among the world’s most developed, including Canada, Japan, Australia, the European Community, South Korea and even the United States, who signed it on October 1,2011.
ACTA not only seeks to enforce copyright but also aims to target counterfeited goods and certain medicines. Up until 2010, most information known about ACTA was taken from leaked documents, as the countries involved in the treaty were very secretive about it. In fact, all of ACTA’s negotiations have been done covertly, and intentional secrecy to mislead the public has been recently revealed.
While SOPA and PIPA are no longer relevant since they ultimately failed and were dropped by the U.S. government in January 2012, ACTA is getting increasingly more recognition. Still, the majority of the public is not yet aware of it. In a recent survey among Washington-Lee students, only 35% of the 20 surveyed knew about ACTA.
Similarly to previous bills of this nature, many people are speaking out against it. Several parts of Europe especially are in an uproar since it is their government, the EU, that will ultimately decide if ACTA is passed or not. Though there currently have not been as many ACTA protests or as much media coverage taking place in the United States, ACTA should not be taken lightly, as it will affect U.S. citizens if it is passed. “Internet users should be concerned about ACTA,” said anti-ACTA freshman William Edmisten, “It not only will affect Europe, but a large percentage of the world.”
Though the popular opinion on ACTA is negative, the treaty is not all bad. There are some elements included in it intended to preserve freedom of speech and genuine online commerce. The European Commission’s website states, “ACTA guarantees all safeguards and exemptions provided by existing or European norms, such as fundamental rights, privacy, freedom of speech, etc.” However, citizens of countries worldwide continue to protest the act, and this June, the EU will vote on it. Whether ACTA seems right or dangerous, it definitely deserves more attention than it’s currently receiving, as it will effect everyone in the 39 countries involved.