Ei-iE

US Trade Representative sued over Anti-Counterfeiting Treaty

published 29 October 2008 updated 29 October 2008

A group of public interest organizations in the United States is suing the US Trade Representative office in an effort to obtain a copy of a draft treaty on intellectual property currently.

Negotiations on an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) were launched last October involving the United States, the European Union, Switzerland and Japan with the aim of toughening up measures to combat piracy and counterfeiting. Since the talks began, a number of other countries have joined the effort including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore, Morocco, Korea, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.

Little is known about the ACTA negotiations as the discussions have been shrouded in secrecy. However, according to the USTR office, the goal of the treaty is to find new ways to to crack down on the illegal copying and counterfeiting of intellectual property (IP).

In a draft discussion paper prepared for the negotiations leaked earlier this year, a number of proposals for strengthening the enforcement of IP rights were noted, including giving border officials the right to seize and search computers and other electronic devices.

The groups involved in the lawsuit say ACTA the public has a right to know about what is being negotiated because the treaty could require Internet Service Providers to monitor the Internet communications of its users, “interfere with the fair use of copyrighted materials”, and criminalize filesharing services.

“The lack of transparency in negotiations of an agreement that will affect the fundamental rights of citizens of the world is fundamentally undemocratic,” the groups said in a joint letter released earlier this month. “It is made worse by the public perception that lobbyists from the music, film, software, video games, luxury goods and pharmaceutical industries have had ready access to the ACTA text and pre-text discussion documents through long-standing communication channels.”