More than 100 public interest organizations from around the world today called on officials from the countries negotiating Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) -- the United States, the European Union, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand -- to publish immediately the draft text of the agreement.

Secrecy around the treaty negotiation has fueled concerns that its terms will undermine vital consumer interests.

Organizations signing the letter include: Consumers Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Essential Action, IP Justice, Knowledge Ecology International, Public Knowledge, Global Trade Watch, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, IP Left (Korea), Australian Digital Alliance, The Canadian Library Association, Consumers Union of Japan, National Consumer Council (UK) and Doctors without Borders’ Campaign for Essential Medicines.

Based on leaked documents and industry comments on the proposed treaty, the groups expressed concerns that ACTA may:

  • Require Internet Service Providers to monitor all consumers' Internet communications;
  • Interfere with fair use of copyrighted materials;
  • Criminalize peer-to-peer electronic file sharing; and
  • Undermine access to low-cost generic medicines.

"Because the text of the treaty and relevant discussion documents remain secret, the public has no way of assessing whether and to what extent these and related concerns are merited," say the public interest groups in their letter.

Worsening the problem is the perception that industry lobbyists have access to the text and are influencing the negotiations. "The lack of transparency in negotiations of an agreement that will affect the fundamental rights of citizens of the world is fundamentally undemocratic. It is made worse by the public perception that lobbyists from the music, film, software, video games, luxury goods and pharmaceutical industries have had ready access to the ACTA text and pre-text discussion documents through long-standing communication channels."

"Why in the world are trade negotiators keeping the treaty a secret?" asks Robert Weissman, director of Essential Action. "Are they worried about counterfeiters influencing the negotiations? What possible rationale is there for secrecy -- other than to lock out the public? Intentionally or not, a treaty to prevent unauthorized copying may easily go too far, and undermine important consumer interests. That's why it is so important that this deal be negotiated in the light of day."

The full text of the letter and the list of signers is available here: ACTA Letter to Trade Ministers.

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