DFAT releases final ACTA text

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DFAT releases final ACTA text

Countries to ratify copyright agreement from the end of next March.

The international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement will shortly come under parliamentary scrutiny after having passed legal verification last week.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which represented Australia in the anti-counterfeiting (ACTA) negotiations since late 2007, parties will be able to sign on for two years from the end of next March.

The department published the final treaty text this month, after meeting in Sydney last week to verify the legal drafting of the text.

Compared to the previous version of ACTA, the post "legal scrub" version (pdf) grew three pages to 27 pages, and featured mainly formatting, rephrasing and chapter renumbering.

Some commentators noted little improvement in clarity of definitions. According to legal expert Kimberlee Weatherall, ACTA's definition of "pirated copyright goods" was incomprehensible.

"After years of copyright training I can't understand it on the first, second, or third read, it's a p---take," she said.

The Gillard Government will make a final decision on ratifying the agreement after it is examined by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.

ACTA was negotiated by 37 countries, and would need to be signed and ratified by at least six parties before entering into force in the territory of any of those parties.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson said Australia would not be required to change domestic laws in to implement the agreement.

He expected local computer programmers, authors, and the film and music industries to benefit from the enforcement of Australian intellectual property rights in foreign markets.

"Australia already has rigorous enforcement standards - we want to see those same high standards adopted by other countries for the benefit of our knowledge-intensive exporters," he said.

"There are many countries where intellectual property enforcement standards could be improved."

ACTA was criticised for being negotiated behind closed doors. Details of international discussions and drafts were leaked to the public.

A department spokesman told iTnews that Australia was "committed" to consulting with those affected.

"Australia's advocacy was important in ensuring the release of text to the public on a number of occasions in recent months," the spokesman said.

"The Government and the parliament will consider in coming months whether Australia should join the ACTA treaty."

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