Friday, October 3, 2008

Pro-IP Act authors criticize ACTA

US Senators Patrick Leahy (Dem.-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Arlen Specter (Rep.-PA), the senior Republican member of the same panel, have released a joint letter to the US Trade Representative critical of the ACTA negotiations.  Senators Leahy and Specter were authors of the recently-passed, but as-yet unsigned, PRO-IP Act (see my previous comments about this act here and here), and are generally considered to be strong proponents of IP enforcement regimes.  Nonetheless they worry that the treaty may be too broad and too specific, and that the negotiations are insufficiently transparent and proceeding too quickly.

The letter, dated October 2, 2008, notes the senators "are concerned, however, that the ACTA under consideration will prescribe rules for protection so specifically that it could impede Congress's ability to make constructive policy changes in the future."  Their concern "is compounded in this situation by the lack of transparency inherent in trade negotiations and the speed with which the process is moving."  The letter goes on to urge the USTR "not to permit the agreement to address issues of liability for service providers or technological protection measures."  It concludes:
"We urge you not to rush into a new, broad Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that may have a significant impact on intellectual property protection at home and abroad and which can take effect without formal Congressional involvement. We encourage you to limit the agreement to improved coordination among nations and robust, but flexible standards for civil, criminal, and border enforcement."

The letter comes in the wake of a public forum held by the Bush administration that was designed to assuage fears over the ACTA, which have been widespread.  Recently Public Knowledge and the EFF launched a joint Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the USTR, seeking the release of documents about the treaty.

See additional coverage here, here, and here.

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