EC to Urge Transparency in Secret Copyright Treaty Talks

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The European Commission has promised to propose a motion calling for the opening up of the secretive anticounterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) at the next meeting mid-April in New Zealand, an official said during a conference Monday.

Eva Lichtenberger, a Green Party member of the European Parliament who attended the conference, said that if the effort to open up the ACTA process to public scrutiny fails, then Europe should walk out.

"We have to get it made public, and if the Commission fails to do so then Europe should pull out of the process altogether," Lichtenberger told IDG News Service after the conference finished.

Countries including the U.S., Japan, Canada and the 27 nation in the European Union are negotiating a treaty designed to combat the counterfeiting of goods and the abuse of copyright on the Internet. The talks have been going on for two years and the aim is to conclude them before the end of this year.

The talks have sparked considerable controversy, mainly because they have been conducted behind closed doors.

Leaked copies of the negotiating text appear to show that negotiators, led by the U.S., seek to clamp down on copyright abuse on the Internet by making ISPs legally liable for material distributed across their networks.

The leaks also show that signatory countries would be encouraged to draft policies similar to the "three strikes" law recently adopted in France. That measure calls for severing a copyright abuser's Internet connection after being caught illegally sharing copyright-protected material three times.

Speaking to a packed room of more than 200 civil liberties campaigners, members of the European Parliament, corporate executives, journalists and lobbyists, the Commission official leading the ACTA negotiations, Luc Devigne, said his team wants the negotiating text made public.

He also said categorically that none of the negotiating parties have suggested making ISPs liable for the content of their networks, and that the ACTA text "does not oblige" signatory countries to impose a three strikes law, adding, "three strikes won't be induced either."

He refused to comment on the leaked copy of the Internet chapter of the ACTA text that appeared in February and included wording to the contrary. "How could we impose this (three strikes) through the European Parliament? It is nonsensical. It has never been proposed and would never be accepted," Devigne said.

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