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Groups demand their FOIA request be fulfilled

Public liberties groups the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge are now asking (PDF) a Washington, DC federal court to enforce their requests to view information on the secretive Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement treaty (ACTA), which is due to be signed by the end of the year.

The groups say they filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information on ACTA last June, but have yet to receive anything.

ACTA, parts of which earned it a reputation as “The Pirate Bay killer,” seeks to unify anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting efforts between the U.S. and its trading partners, including Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, Mexico, and the European Union. Leaked information on the treaty, which appeared last May on Wikileaks, indicates that it could be used to compel ISPs to spy on users’ activities, criminalize P2P file-sharing, allow customs agents to search travelers’ iPods for illegal music, and hold pharmaceutical ingredients makers liable for the use of their products, among other things.

The EFF and Public Knowledge’s lawsuit seems to request nearly all data available on the ACTA treaty-making process, including meeting agendas, briefing notes, presentation documents, correspondence, analysis, and records on USTR meetings with ACTA negotiators.

Furthermore, since ACTA's negotiators are pushing for completion before the end of 2008, the rights groups’ petition asks the courts for special urgency in processing their original FOIA request.

Earlier this week, both the EFF and Public Knowledge joined more than 100 other concerned groups around the world in signing a letter that demands access to ACTA’s draft materials. Many of the letter’s other co-signers hail from countries not involved in the negotiation process, and represent a wide variety of public and private interests – including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Swisslinux.org, and the Malaysia-based Third World Network.

The United States Trade Representative’s office did make inroads with critics, however, by releasing a four-volume compendium of comments late last July from the private sector. Totaling more than 170 pages, the letters it contains come from an equally varied group of stakeholders, including the MPAA, National Association of Manufacturing, and decorating-industry supplier G. G. Marck & Associates. Observers called this release a feeding frenzy of wishes, with groups all over the U.S. providing practically listing what they’d like to see inserted into the ACTA's text.

World leaders provided a ringing endorsement of ACTA at the annual G8 summit last July, stating in their “Declaration on the World Economy” intentions to standardize IP-related customs enforcement and increase related data sharing between nations.





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