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ACTA will be signed Saturday, US and Japan say

The signing ceremony for the controversial IP enforcement agreement will be in Tokyo

A controversial trade agreement targeting counterfeiters and copyright infringers is scheduled to be signed this Saturday in Tokyo, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has announced.

Representatives of the U.S., Japan, Australia, Canada, the E.U., South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and Switzerland will be at the signing ceremony for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), according to Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Countries that have "completed relevant domestic processes" will sign ACTA, the ministry said in a press release. The agreement, which would create international standards for protecting intellectual property, will be open for signature until May 1, 2013, the ministry said.

Public Knowledge, a digital rights group, said the latest version of ACTA contains more protections for consumers than previous versions. Still, the group urged U.S. President Barack Obama's administration to "make it clear" that ACTA does not change U.S. law, including provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protecting ISPs and websites from copyright enforcement.

"We believe such a statement is necessary because there are still sufficient ambiguities in some parts of the agreement that could conflict with U.S. law," Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge's president and co-founder, said in a statement.

Critics of ACTA, pushed by Japanese and U.S. governments, have criticized the negotiation process for being secretive.

Sohn called the ACTA negotiations an "extremely flawed" process. "ACTA should have been considered a treaty, and subject to public Senate debate and ratification or, in the alternative, debated in an open and transparent international forum such as the World Intellectual Property Organization," she said. "Instead, public interest groups and the tech industry had to expend enormous resources to force the process open to permit public views to be presented and considered."

Critics in the E.U. have suggested the trade agreement doesn't comply with Europe's data privacy laws, and have questioned its compatibility with E.U. law.

U.S. critics have raised concerns that ACTA would force the government to enforce other nations' intellectual property laws.

ACTA could also allow member countries to introduce the so-called three-strikes rule, requiring ISPs to shut off service to subscribers who continue to download or share material protected by copyright after receiving two warnings.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.


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