Supporters Encourage ACTA Negotiators

Two key members of Congress are voicing support for an international agreement aimed at curbing anti-counterfeiting despite lingering concerns from public interest groups and other lawmakers in the United States and Europe about the secrecy surrounding the negotiations.

In a letter last week to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the co-chairmen of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus, commended Kirk’s agency for its “continued commitment in negotiating an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement with our trading partners.”

Hatch and Schiff, members of the Judiciary Committee in their respective chambers, added that “protecting intellectual property rights is vital to our country’s continued success as a world leader in innovation. … We believe that a more robust framework is needed to thwart the criminal enterprises engaged in IP theft.”

A group of about 100 small and medium-sized businesses and organizations echoed this view in their own letter to Kirk Tuesday. “If the administration is to achieve its goal of spurring economic recovery through doubling exports over the next five years, it is imperative to more effectively combat counterfeiting and piracy,” the letter said. They and others such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are urging the administration to work to finish the agreement by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the International Trademark Association (INTA) voiced support Tuesday for ACTA during a European Parliament meeting on the agreement. INTA stressed the importance of the EU’s role in the negotiating process and of intellectual property to Europe. The group said in a statement that it would like to see the agreement include stronger border enforcement against counterfeited goods; stiffer criminal penalties; and better international and public-private cooperation.

The European Parliament has been skeptical of the ACTA process. Negotiators have released few details about the agreement. The parliament voted overwhelmingly last month for a resolution that “deplored the lack of transparency in the ongoing ACTA negotiations, which [members of Parliament] feel are conducted by bypassing parliamentary and public oversight,” according to a March 17 European Parliament statement.
INTA said while it favors “increased transparency” by the ACTA negotiators, it “understands the need by negotiators to maintain a certain level of discretion as the draft text is being developed.”

In the March release, Parliament Vice President Stavros Lambrinidis also noted there is “strong concern” in the parliament that negotiators may include language similar to a French law that aims to punish serial copyright infringers by cutting off their access to the Internet. “This parliament has voted three times against similar disproportionate sanctions in the past,” Lambrinidis said in the statement.

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