Draft Of Internet Piracy Deal Released
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel. A controversial trade agreement being negotiated behind closed doors is secret no more. Today, the U.S. and the EU released a draft text of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, but only after months of criticism from public interest groups. Those groups fear the agreement will harm free speech and innovation on the Internet. Joel Rose reports.
JOEL ROSE: Since negotiations began in 2008, there have been plenty of rumors about what is or isn't part of ACTA.
Mr. STAN McCOY(ph): (Assistant U.S. Trade Representative): There are a number of misconceptions, for example the notion that ACTA is going to cause people's iPods to be searched at the border.
ROSE: Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Stan McCoy says today's release of the official draft text is intended to set the record straight.
Mr. McCOY: There have been some people speculating about what this agreement might do in ways that were unhelpful and fed a lot of misperceptions. So one of the things that we hope that this text will help to do is counter some of that misperception.
ROSE: Negotiators for the U.S. and European Union say ACTA is supposed to crack down on large-scale counterfeiting and copyright infringement. While ACTA would not enable border guards to snoop around your phone or laptop, critics worry that it might create more subtle problems for technology companies and ordinary Internet users.
Mr. SHERWIN SIY (Deputy Legal Director, Public Knowledge): Basically, ACTA works to export some of the most dangerous parts of U.S. copyright law without exporting the staunchest protections of the law.
ROSE: Sherwin Siy is deputy legal director at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C. He says the draft released today could make Internet providers and device-makers liable for the copyright infringement of their users.
Mr. SIY: Now in the U.S., we have specific provisions that protect people against that, that have been put there by the Supreme Court. That's something that we don't see baked into ACTA.
ROSE: That's why Siy and others think ACTA could create big problems for search engines and companies like YouTube that depend on user-generated content. Critics also worry that ACTA could turn Internet providers into de facto cops, scouring their networks for copyright infringement.
But Greg Frazier at the Motion Picture Association of America says there's nothing in the agreement that would go beyond current U.S. law.
Mr. GREG FRAZIER (Motion Picture Association of America): Not a comma, not a period, not a word. So if you don't want to play a role in dealing with online piracy, say so. Let's have that discussion. But don't pretend that this agreement is going to impose new liabilities, all of this, you know, the sky is falling because it's clearly not accurate.
ROSE: Maybe not for now, but ACTA negotiations are still ongoing, and University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist says the draft released today shows that there remain some serious disagreements between the governments negotiating ACTA.
Mr. MICHAEL GEIST (Law Professor, University of Ottawa): If you've got Europe and the United States and Australia and other countries all claiming that ACTA is fully consistent with their domestic laws, they can't all be right, or at least they can't all be right once an agreement is finally concluded. And it seems to me more likely that they'll all be wrong, that in a sense, everybody is going to have to make some shifts, and everybody is going to face some amount of change on the domestic front.
ROSE: ACTA talks are scheduled to resume in June. U.S. and EU negotiators haven't said if they plan to release a new draft after the next round of talks or if today's gesture at transparency was just a one-shot deal.
For NPR News, I'm Joel Rose.
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