In an effort to win countries over to its way of government thinking, the United States plans to release ‘bracketed text’ of its proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement which has been closeted from prying eyes.
With growing concern over piracy of digital creations, the U.S. policy and agreement must be sold to other participating countries.
"The agreement can be concluded soon if other participants make it a priority to achieve such progress now," Nefeterius McPherson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office, said in a statement.
Opponents and critics have feared the proposed ACTA could allow border or customs agents to confiscate laptop and music devices if they determine that the device contained illegal downloads. Other groups with other concerns worry it could restrict trade in low-price generic drugs.
In a joint statement, negotiators from the United States, the European Union, Japan and other countries that met this week in New Zealand downplayed doubters and digital rights advocate.
"There is no proposal to oblige ACTA participants to require border authorities to search travelers' baggage or their personal electronic devices for infringing materials. In addition, ACTA will not address the cross-border transit of legitimate generic medicines," a group statement said.
On Wednesday, April 21, 2010, the countries have agreed to release a consolidated "bracketed text" in an attempt to allay fears.
The brackets surround parts of the agreement that are still under negotiation and will be the focus of the next round of talks in June in Switzerland. So far the non-transparency of the texts has fueled suspicion about the pact, which began several years ago.
"I think we're cautiously optimistic about this step" to release the text for public inspection, said Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director at Public Knowledge, a digital rights advocacy group.
But even if that is finally happening, there remain concerns about the negative impact the agreement could have on Internet users, Siy said. One fear is the agreement could create a environment in which Internet users who are suspected of illegally downloading music or other files have their active accounts closed without recourse.
Joint statement, which was issued on Friday, said that the agreement would not mandate a "graduated response" or "three strikes" policy for copyright infringement is not reassuring, Siy said.
Public Knowledge champions clear language to ensure the agreement is "not encouraging governments to kick people off the Internet," Siy said.
Participant countries include Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce welcomed the plan to release the text, which it said "should address many of the erroneous claims of the anti-ACTA critics."