US Lawmaker opens up ACTA to online comments

Issa says the trade agreement poses as big of a threat to the Internet as SOPA or PIPA

A U.S lawmaker has posted the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) online and is asking the public to comment and make changes to the copyright enforcement treaty.

Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, posted ACTA on his Keepthewebopen.com site Tuesday. Even though the U.S. and seven other countries signed the agreement in October, the public needs to be included in the debate as President Barack Obama's administration begins to implement ACTA, Issa said.

Issa compared ACTA to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), two controversial bills that prompted widespread online protests in late 2011 and early this year.

"ACTA represents as great a threat to an open Internet as SOPA and PIPA and was drafted with even less transparency and input from digital citizens," Issa said in a statement. "This agreement was negotiated in secret and many of its vague provisions would clearly increase economic uncertainty, while imposing onerous new regulations on job creators, Internet service providers, innovators and individual Americans."

Like SOPA and PIPA, ACTA is "vague" and could create consequences that reach beyond the drafters' original intent, Issa said.

ACTA would require countries that sign it to enforce criminal copyright infringement laws and take steps to prevent counterfeit goods from entering their borders and to take actions against distributors of pirated digital goods.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, no one except Issa had commented on the site or suggested changes to ACTA. It's not clear how Issa intends to use any comments or changes suggested.

Supporters of ACTA have said the treaty is important to help protect copyright worldwide. The countries signing the agreement "all recognize that strong intellectual property protection is essential to fostering creativity and innovation in their economies, creating good jobs, increasing cultural diversity, promoting technological advances, enhancing the rule of law, and boosting legal trade in products and services protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws," the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) said in October.

ACTA will help U.S. companies protect their intellectual property, said the Office of U.S. Trade Representative. The agreement will foster "increased leadership in the international fight against counterfeiting and piracy," the agency said in October.

But Issa criticized the agreement, saying most negotiations were in secret. The deal appears to violate Congress' authority to make policy affecting U.S. trade and intellectual property law, he added.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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