Groups Protest Obama Administration Secrecy on ‘Trade Agreement’
Groups Protest Obama Administration Secrecy on ‘Trade Agreement’
Groups Protest Obama Administration Secrecy on ‘Trade Agreement’

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    Sixteen library, consumer, creator, and civil liberties organizations
    today told the Obama Administration of their “deep concerns about
    the lack of transparency and openness” surrounding the negotiation
    of an international trade agreement that has the potential to rewrite
    U.S. copyright law.

    The letter comes as talks were held this week in Seoul, South Korea, on
    the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The U.S. Trade
    Representative has repeatedly declined to make public the draft text of
    the agreement, and has “actively resisted disclosure of relevant
    information during the course of litigation under the Freedom of
    Information Act.” The Administration’s secrecy conflicts with
    President Obama’s promise of “a more transparent,
    collaborative and participatory government,” the groups said.

    A main problem, the groups said in a letter to President Obama and
    high-ranking Administration officials, is that ACTA is not a traditional
    trade agreement as much as it is a treaty dealing with intellectual
    property: “Much of ACTA’s transparency deficit stems from the
    disconnect between ACTA’s apparent aims and its formulation as a
    trade agreement. In negotiating agreements focusing on traditional trade
    matters such as tariffs and trade barriers, confidentiality regarding
    some negotiating positions may be appropriate. But ACTA aims to set
    international legal norms, potentially driving changes to substantive
    intellectual property legal regimes on an international basis. 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 said.

    As a substantive matter, the groups said the information which is known
    about the treaty negotiations shows that the terms are heavily weighted
    in favor of big media companies: “With respect to ACTA’s
    substance, we remain concerned that the terms may not adequately account
    for all of the interests that would be affected. Intellectual property
    law requires a balance between the benefits conferred upon creators and
    the rights of the general public to access and use those creations in
    free discourse and for the public good. Yet the public and the industries
    enabling such uses would face crippling liability under an improperly
    calibrated intellectual property regime. ACTA could increase the risk of
    participating governments taking an imbalanced approach.”

    The full text of the letter is here.

    Information on the current negotiations is available in a number of
    sites, including that of Professor Michael
    and the
    Electronic Frontier Foundation

    Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at or 405-249-9435.