The United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement on Saturday, an accord targeting intellectual property piracy.
The European Union, Mexico and Switzerland — the only other governments participating in the accord’s creation — did not sign the deal at a ceremony in Japan but “confirmed their continuing strong support for and preparations to sign the agreement as soon as practical,” the parties said in a joint statement.
The United States applauded the deal.
“As with many of the challenges we face in today’s global economy, no government can single-handedly eliminate the problem of global counterfeiting and piracy. Signing this agreement is therefore an act of shared leadership and determination in the international fight against intellectual property theft,” said Mariam Sapiro, deputy United States trade representative.
The deal, more than three years in the making and open for signing until May 2013, exports on participating nations an intellectual-property enforcement regime resembling the one in the United States.
Rashmi Rangnath, a staff attorney with Public Knowledge in Washington, D.C., said the deal “clearly, is an attempt to foist U.S. law on other countries.”
Among other things, the accord demands governments make it unlawful to market devices that circumvent copyright, such as devices that copy encrypted DVDs without authorization. That is akin to a feature in the the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the United States, where the law has been used by Hollywood studios to block RealNetworks from marketing DVD-copying technology.
The accord, which the United States says does not require Congressional approval, also calls on participating nations to maintain extensive seizure and forfeiture laws when it comes to counterfeited goods that are trademarked or copyrighted. Most important, countries must carry out a legal system where victims of intellectual property theft may be awarded an undefined amount of monetary damages.
In the United States, for example, the Copyright Act allows for damages of up to $150,000 per infringement. A Boston jury has dinged a college student $675,000 for pilfering 30 tracks on Kazaa, while a Minnesota jury has awarded the Recording Industry Association of America $1.5 million for the purloining of 24 songs online.
A U.S.-backed footnote removed from the document more than a year ago provided for “the termination” of internet accounts for repeat online infringers. U.S. internet service providers and content providers, however, have brokered such a deal toward that goal.
Until European Union authorities began leaking the document’s text, the Obama administration was claiming the accord was a “national security” secret.