Could The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Act Undermine The 'Internet Economy'?
In a recent letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, a coalition of nine groups including the American Association of Law Libraries, Computer & Communications Industry Association, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge, say that the treaty provisions relating to the Web should be removed.
The talks are secret, but some documents about the negotiations surfaced last year in Wikileaks. In addition, groups like the Motion Picture Association of America have publicly called for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, to require Internet service providers to monitor users' communications, disclose information about subscribers, and implement "three strikes" policies that disconnect users who allegedly share pirated files. The consumer advocates say such measures could compromise people's privacy and could also violate people's due process rights by imposing sanctions based on allegations that might not be true.
"Based on negotiating documents that have become public -- but not made available by the U.S. government -- we have good reason to believe that the ACTA negotiations could harm a significant portion of the economy as well as consumer interests," the groups write. "Given the potential harm to the Internet economy and to consumers, therefore, we urge you to delete such provisions from the negotiations," the groups write.
Last year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge sued to force the trade representative to disclose documents relating to the treaty. But the digital rights groups withdrew their lawsuit last month, after the Obama Administration told the court the documents should remain classified.
"Federal judges have very little discretion to overrule Executive Branch decisions to classify information on 'national security' grounds," the groups said in a statement. At the time, the groups vowed to advocate out-of-court for "consumer representation on the U.S. Industry Trade Advisory Committee on IP, the creation of a civil society trade advisory committee, and greater government transparency about what ACTA means for citizens."
Late last week, a spokesperson for the U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement that participants had agreed to release drafts of agendas in advance of future talks.