'Three-strikes' rule dropped from ACTA

48 hours until draft agreement launch

The controversial three-strikes ban in the secretive Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) appears to have been dropped.

The proposal to include the ban was shot down by member countries including Australia and New Zealand during the eighth ACTA meeting in Wellington last week. A three-strikes ban, such as the French HADOPI law, would require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to cut-off users from Internet access after receiving three copyright law breach notifications.

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) staff met in Wellington with representatives from New Zealand, the US, Europe, Japan, Canada and others for to discuss the draft ACTA plurilateral trade agreement, which was leaked in February. The agreement aims to ramp-up control held by intellectual property owners over their products and ideas and reduce counterfeiting and illegal trade.

According to an ACTA statement issued by DFAT today, and 48 hours ahead of the public launch of the ACTA discussion paper, no member country will “mandate a ‘graduated response’ or ‘three-strikes’ approach to copyright infringement on the Internet”.

“Good progress was made toward narrowing existing differences, in the areas of civil enforcement, border measures, criminal enforcement and special measures for the digital environment,” the statement reads. “The participants held constructive discussions regarding the scope of intellectual property rights covered in ACTA.”

Member countries agreed to issue a draft ACTA text, specifically “the consolidated text coming [from the] discussions which will reflect the substantial progress made”, to assist the “process of reaching a final agreement”.

But countries will maintain the veil of secrecy shrouding their own stances on the ACTA agreement. Australian Trade Minister, Simon Crean said the government will not seek to change national law through the agreement, but could not discuss the details of ACTA. Australia has not joined ACTA to drive change in Australian domestic laws. Taking part in the negotiations does not oblige Australia to join any resulting treaty, DFAT notes on its web site.

According to the statement, ACTA will not:

  • Interfere with a country’s ability to respect its citizens’ fundamental rights and liberties.
  • Oblige ACTA participants to require border authorities to search travellers’ baggage or their personal electronic devices for infringing materials.
  • Address the cross-border transit of legitimate generic medicines.

The next ACTA meeting will be held in Switzerland in June this year.

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