Gucci bags, Apple iClones, New Balance sneakers, jeans of all stripes, Oakley sunglasses, you name it. Head out to any major urban strip, market or sidewalk vendor and you'll find a plethora of knock-offs laid out on a table, selling for a low, low price.
Well, fakers beware. There are now 38 countries committed to an international anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting agreement.
At an Oct. 1st meeting in Tokyo, the United States and seven other nations signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which aims to stamp out piracy and intellectual property theft. Other new ACTA signatories include New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, Japan, and Morocco.
Prior to signing, the US was embroiled in debates over the sections of the agreement pertaining to IP protection on the web, a hot-button issue that alarmed online privacy watchdogs such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, with some concerned about ACTA's constitutionality.
With the US now on board, the biggest hold-outs include the European Union, Mexico, and Switzerland, although they are "open" to discussions according to a joint statement by the latest signatories. The much-debated proposal has been in the works since 2007.
“Protecting intellectual property is essential to American jobs in innovative and creative industries. The ACTA provides a platform for the Obama Administration to work cooperatively with other governments to advance the fight against counterfeiting and piracy,” stated US Trade Representative Ron Kirk on the signing. “Today marks a major milestone in the process of putting this Agreement into force.”
“Counterfeit and pirated goods are an increasingly global problem that requires a globally coordinated solution,” said Canada’s International Trade Minister Ed Fast said in a statement. “We all have an interest in combating counterfeiting and piracy because these activities cost billions of dollars each year in revenue and trade losses, which translates into higher prices, lost income and lost jobs for people employed in a range of industries — from film and pharmaceuticals to electronics.”
The agreement “improves international co-operation in fighting the spread of pirated and counterfeit products, establishes an effective legal framework for dealing with such issues, and better protects the rights of artists, innovators and entrepreneurs whose creations are targeted by counterfeiters,” the Montreal Gazette reports.
ACTA is open for signing until May 2013, so there's still time to hash out the abstainers' concerns.