The final draft (PDF) of the highly-controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been published to calls from rights groups for MEPs to block its ratification.
The document, said to be have been approved by all nations by an EU spokesman on Monday, is concerned with helping nations combat the issue of copyright and trademark infringements.
Its creation has been a source of much controversy over both the fact that discussions on the document took place behind closed doors and with regards to some of the technical measures nations had called for to try and stop counterfeiting.
A number of clauses in the final draft relating to how to deal with copyright infringement contain elements that could still be highly controversial and have a significant impact on the EU and UK legal systems.
The inclusion of the need for each party to "establish and maintain a system that provides for…pre-established damages" could, for instance, lead to significant fines being levied, according to lawyer Robin Fry from Beachcroft.
"There has been a hardening of position relating to 'pre-established' damages – these are fixed by law and do not depend on the copyright owner having to prove their loss," he said.
"It could trigger far more infringement claims by designers, software developers and creatives who in the past haven't thought it commercially worthwhile pursuing minor infringements. Far more intellectual property litigation is therefore on the cards."
Fry also added that a "three-strikes law" for punishing repeat offenders by taking away their internet connections "would be permissible under the ACTA on the basis that it would constitute a deterrent to further infringement".
La Quadrature Du Net, a highly vocal opponent of the ACTA, said the final draft is still "very dangerous" and threatens the freedoms of internet users.
In particular, it cited the call for closer cooperation between businesses – ie. rights holders and Internet service providers (ISPs) – to address trademark and copyright infringements that they argue could turns ISPs into a form of internet police.
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