US Groups Duel Over Access To ACTA NegotiationPublished on 9 November 2009 @ 6:37 pm
During the most recent negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in Seoul, Korea on 4-6 November, about which no public information is available, US industry and public interest groups issued statements taking widely divergent positions on the progress of the talks.
The private-sector US Chamber of Commerce issued a statement, linked here, that it “is satisfied with the steps US Trade Representative has taken to make the ACTA negotiation process transparent.”
But sixteen leading public interest organisations such as libraries wrote to US President Obama [pdf] on 5 November raising concern about the transparency and the legitimacy of ACTA as a trade agreement.
“ACTA aims to set international legal norms, potentially driving changes to substantive intellectual property legal regimes on an international basis,” the public interest groups said. “Attempts to force a multilateral intellectual property agreement through trade processes unsuited for it does a disservice to citizens, public policy, and the USTR alike.”
“As an instrument affecting multiple nations’ laws and policy, ACTA should be negotiated in public, as has been done routinely with international intellectual property agreements in the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization,” the groups added.
The Chamber said, “We believe an ambitious ACTA will set a high bar for IP protection and enforcement around the world.” It added that a successful agreement will “build upon existing international rules, in particular on the [World Trade Organization] Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS), to produce a measurable improvement in the prevailing legal framework for the protection and enforcement of IP rights.”
“We understand that the negotiation process requires the need for USTR and our trading partners to effectively exchange views and bounce ideas of one another in private,” the Chamber said. “This process is no different from how previous agreements are negotiated.”
Meanwhile, nonprofit groups Public Knowledge and Knowledge Ecology International in a 9 November letter [pdf] to the US Senate and Congress, expressed their concerns about the substantive content of ACTA.
The two groups said, based on “public press reports” and “credible leaked documents,” the ACTA negotiations seem to favour IP rights holders without giving due attention to users. “ACTA would appear to be an expanded version of the TRIPS enforcement sections, but without the balance and safeguards that have given TRIPS such legitimacy,” the groups said.
[Update: A petition demanding greater transparency of ACTA has been set up by KEI. The petition is on its way to gaining hundreds of signatures from leading figures and organisations, and is available here, http://www.keionline.org/acta-petition.]
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