ACTA: Factsheet

This fact sheet provides background on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and addresses some of the common questions raised about the agreement. For the latest information on ACTA, please go to the ACTA webpage and the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties webpage.

Why ACTA?

  • A growing trade in counterfeit and pirated products is affecting many areas of our everyday life. This trade harms individuals, companies and entire economies. The damage can range from physical harm to people who are exposed to substandard or dangerous fake products to significant commercial losses for businesses which have their ideas stolen.
  • The range of goods being counterfeited – and passed off as genuine – now goes beyond luxury goods and DVDs to include common household articles – everything from home appliances to toothpaste. Various fake products, including counterfeit medicines, potentially hazardous household items and spare parts for cars, buses and planes, pose a threat to health and safety.
  • The manufacture, distribution, and sale of these illegal goods is widespread, well-organised and on a commercial scale.
  • Counterfeiting and piracy occur across international boundaries, which makes detection and enforcement difficult. This prompted the 37 countries taking part in ACTA to develop an agreement that sets out common standards and helps strengthen international cooperation in dealing with this global problem.
  • Australia took part in the ACTA negotiations and signed ACTA because it is in Australia’s long-term interests to promote its innovative industries and trade in intellectual property (IP), and to protect Australian consumers from the potential harm posed by fake products.

Myths about ACTA

  • It was negotiated in secret and the public was never consulted. FALSE. The Australian Government has worked to ensure an inclusive, open and transparent process involving the broadest range of stakeholders. Views were sought via newspaper advertisements and on the DFAT website, and public consultations were held in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. Draft texts were made available during the negotiations, and the consultation process is continuing through Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT).
  • It was negotiated by an exclusive club of countries and ignores global forums. FALSE. ACTA was negotiated by 37 like-minded countries that were ready to lift international IP enforcement standards by building on existing international standards. Australia has supported discussions on ACTA in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and would like to see ACTA become a multilateral agreement with broad membership.
  • It will infringe upon people’s civil liberties and lead to censorship. FALSE. ACTA does not focus on private, non-commercial activities of individuals. ACTA will not stifle freedom of speech nor violate people’s privacy. It will not affect flows of non-pirated information on the internet and will not lead to the monitoring of individuals.
  • It will increase the frequency of baggage searches by Customs authorities at airports. FALSE. ACTA is aimed at commercial-scale counterfeiting and importation – which is already illegal in Australia. It will have no impact on the way Customs authorities conduct baggage searches.
  • It will require internet service providers (ISPs) to prevent piracy. FALSE. ACTA does not contain any provisions requiring ISPs to monitor the activities of their users or to prevent piracy.
  • It will lead to internet connections being terminated. FALSE. ACTA will not require ISPs to terminate users’ connections on the basis of accumulated allegations of online IP infringement.
  • It means people won’t be able to get access to generic medicines. FALSE. ACTA will not ban or limit the availability of generic drugs in Australia, or impede the global trade in legitimate generic drugs. ACTA will help combat the trade in unsafe, counterfeit drugs.
  • It will criminalise activities that are currently legal in Australia. FALSE. ACTA is entirely consistent with existing Australian laws.
  • People will go to jail for recording their favourite TV programs. FALSE. ACTA will not change the way IP rights are enforced in Australia.

What will ACTA do?

  • ACTA will establish an international framework for countries taking part to more effectively combat counterfeiting and piracy.
  • ACTA reflects agreement among the participating countries:
    • to take effective action against the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods; and
    • to cooperate in addressing the cross-border trade in counterfeit and pirated goods.
  • ACTA addresses counterfeiting and piracy not just in the physical world but also in the digital environment, where they are growing problems.
  • For Australia, ACTA will help ensure that Australia’s innovative industries enjoy an enhanced level of protection among signatory countries. The measures ACTA sets out for dealing with breaches of IP rights – including penalties – are entirely consistent with existing Australian law and build on standards developed in the WTO.

When will ACTA come into force?

  • ACTA will enter into force 30 days after the date that the sixth party has notified its ratification, acceptance, or approval.
  • It will be up to each ACTA participant, in accordance with its internal procedures, to decide whether and when to ratify ACTA.
  • Australia signed ACTA on 1 October 2011. On 21 November 2011 it was tabled in the Australian Parliament for consideration by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) . On 27 June 2012 the Committee tabled its report. The Government tabled its response on 27 November 2012.

Last Updated: 25 January 2013