Lawsuit against US on IP trade agreement dropped for national security
Opposition to a sweeping trade agreement being negotiated in secret between the United States and at least eleven other countries, plus the European Union, is being voluntarily curtailed after an apparently successful effort by Obama administration officials to prevent parties in a lawsuit against US trade representatives from obtaining any information about that agreement.
It's the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, the existence of which is about the only thing the government will barely acknowledge. A document leaked last year to the community journalism site Wikileaks.org indicated that intellectual property protections were on the agenda, and may have been part of the reason why the treaty was not ratified by July 2008 as previously planned.
Speculation about the contents of the leaked document has risen to proportions that would have made Pierre Salinger blush with envy, including allegations that the nations are discussing the possibility of rendering the use of P2P for file-sharing purposes illegal, and of forcing nations to set up Internet monitoring facilities in conjunction with ISPs, listening for illicit file trafficking.
Last September, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge stepped up their ongoing efforts to learn more about the ACTA, at the very least to verify whether the speculation was true. It's very difficult to be an advocate against something you know so little about for certain. But yesterday, the two groups decided to step back, withdrawing their lawsuit against the US, after Obama administration officials notified the court it will uphold the Bush administration's decision to treat ACTA-related documents as classified for national security reasons.
A statement released yesterday by EFF International Policy Director Gwen Hinze reads, "There's a fundamental fairness issue at stake here. It's now clear that the negotiating texts and background documents for this trade agreement have been made available to representatives of major media copyright owners and pharmaceutical companies on the Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Intellectual Property. Yet private citizens -- who stand to be greatly affected by ACTA -- have had to rely on unofficial leaks for any substantive information about the treaty and have had no opportunity for meaningful input into the negotiation process. This can hardly be described as transparent or balanced policy-making."
Last March, a member of Pres. Obama's private citizens' activism blog (formerly his campaign Web site) posted an open message to the President, which reads in part, "This doesn't sound like transparency. It's especially interesting since the corporations that would be benefiting from new rules have access to all documents and participate in the process, but an agreement that will affect culture is not accessible for the citizens to view and comment? What's in this agreement, Mr. President, that even you, a champion of transparency cannot tell your citizens what's in it?"