The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been under my radar while I wrote about SOPA a few weeks back. While the Stop Online Piracy Act hasn’t been covered on the major news those last couple of days, it doesn’t mean it’s over yet. But as the public were still focused on SOPA, and mainly by the MegaUpload and Anonymous attacks, another treaty was slowly moving forward under the name of ACTA, which stands for “ Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement”.

Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is already signed

As opposed to SOPA that was still to be voted at the US parliament, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement trade agreement has already been signed by few countries. In October 2011, the following countries have already signed this ACTA agreement: Japan, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.

Then, while people still recovered from new year’s eve, in January 2012,  additional countries jumped into the bandwagon of signing that Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement agreement. The European Commission members of the following countries have then shown the support to ACTA: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom.

At the European Union commission, it’s not yet signed per se since the ACTA still has to be ratified by the European Parliament.

But why is ACTA so criticized?

The same arguments that were used against SOPA come back here: Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is seen as a threat to freedom on the internet. But to summarise it, ACTA’s goals are to enforce copyright and tackle counterfeited goods.

As it was with SOPA, the reasons behind setting-up ACTA are genuine: there are losses due to copyright infringement as well as counterfeit. But here again, as the debate is brought to the internet, the anti-ACTA are arguing that it’s another threat to internet freedom.

The main difference with SOPA is that some countries have already signed the agreement. Notwithstanding the fact that it’s a trade treaty, major concerns from Anti-ACTA is that this hasn’t been democratically been debated before being signed.

Not directly related to Internet and piracy

In fact, Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is not only related to internet and piracy, since Wikipedia quotes its objectives as  “The agreement aims to establish an international legal framework for targeting counterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement on the Internet, and would create a new governing body outside existing forums, such as the World Trade Organisation, the World Intellectual Property Organisation, or the United Nations.” . Now the question is: like SOPA who mainly targeted internet piracy, will the fact that ACTA covers more non-internet related items (generic medicines as well as counterfeit goods) dilute the act so that it will see less activism against it over the internet?

As you may guess, behind Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement stands legitimate companies that suffer from counterfeit and piracy acts. There’s a huge difference here, however: it’s not only about the internet anymore even though most arguments are mentioning the fact that ACTA is threatening the freedom that has always been associated to the Internet.

There’s still a lot of legal discussions as well as major interests at stake here. As a simple user and internet user, do you think Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is something you should care/worry about?