ACTA deal to criminalise illegal content nears deadline

Negotiators in Paris are putting the final touches on a controversial global anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) that is expected to criminalise the possession and use of copyright materials by unlicensed owners.

Negotiators in Paris are putting the final touches on a controversial global anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) that is expected to criminalise the possession and use of copyright materials by unlicensed owners.

The international deal is expected to be announced on Thursday in Paris. ACTA, which the music and film and video industries sponsored, aims at stopping illegal trade, including downloads, of films, songs, games and software.

It has been thrashed out largely in secret. However, an early proposal leaked to whistleblowing website Wikileaks showed that the provisions allowed border control staff complete freedom to seize, search and copy travellers' mobile phones, laptops and other digital equipment, at random.

Since then, consultation documents and update statements published by the Australian and New Zealand governments confirmed the intention to criminalise the illegal possession of copyright material. In the US, Congress repealed laws that permitted searched without due cause.

The UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is negotiating on Britain's behalf. It has made no public statements on its bargaining position or the agenda. However, its IP crime group reported today that many UK firms are doing nothing to protect their intellectual property. Many also turn a blind eye to possible trade in counterfeit products on their premises.

Over a quarter of respondents do not make staff aware that they must not download illegal content at work, it said.

Ed Quilty, director of copyright and IP enforcement at the IPO, said, "Intellectual property is central to the UK economy and therefore businesses of all sizes cannot afford to be complacent in respecting to its value."

Other findings

* 40% of businesses surveyed took no practical action such as trademark registration or employee training to ensure their IP or the IP of is protected.

* One-third were unaware whether goods sold on their premises by external traders were legitimate or not.

* Of those who knew that employees were selling DVDs at work, nearly one-fifth knew that they were counterfeit and still allowed such illegal activity to take place.

* Nearly 30% of those who said they would not prevent employees and colleagues from buying counterfeit goods at work took no action because they said it was not their responsibility.

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