Government agencies involved in trade negotiations should open their private-sector advisory committees to include public representatives, Public Knowledge (PK) said May 25 in a filing with the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Commerce.
A copy of the filing is here.
PK’s comments were directed specifically at the Industry Trade Advisory Committee (ITAC) that advises policymakers on intellectual property issues. “While representatives of U.S. IP industries such as the pharmaceutical industry, the motion picture industry, and the recording industry have considerable influence in the formulation of these agreements, the American public has had very little input in the process,” PK said. To correct the imbalance on the committee, government should also include “non-business interests that represent the views of the public and institutions such as libraries, museums, archives and others impacted by IP policy,” PK recommended.
However, as the government goes through the process of re-charting the IP advisory committee, “the qualifications for such membership do not seem to extend to non-business interests,” PK said.
More public participation is needed because many trade agreements have “tended to ignore the interests of the public and assume international obligations that are harmful to them,” PK wrote, citing as one example a trade agreement with Australia that extends copyright protections to temporary computer files – a protection that does not exist in U.S. law. PK said that the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) similarly extends beyond U.S. law by allowing for notice and take-down procedures for allegedly infringing material, but without the safeguards and remedies that exist in U.S. law.
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