A counterfeiting agreement aimed at stepping up international enforcement of copyright protections has been scaled back after objections from Internet content providers led by Google Inc.
The text of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which would set joint rules for cracking down on the pirating of copyrighted materials, was released today by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. The deal would be the first major trade accord reached under President Barack Obama.
The European Union, the U.S. and nine nations are making the text of the accord public as they seek to resolve a few remaining issues. They must each then decide whether to sign the deal that was first proposed in 2007. The accord wouldn’t require congressional approval.
“This work represents a significant victory for those who care about protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement.
Technology companies such as Google, operator of the world’s most popular search engine, protested that initial U.S. proposals would have imposed copyright protections without the exceptions in U.S. law. The U.S. had proposed forcing governments that signed the deal to crack down on Internet service providers for distributing pirated movies or music. That was among requirements dropped from the 24-page text released today.
“The U.S. capitulated,” Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who has been following the negotiations, said in an interview. “The U.S. has steadily caved on issue after issue.”
Movie, Recording Industry
The movie and recording industries, the leading supporters of the treaty, described the proposed deal as an imperfect step forward.
“It doesn’t answer all the questions, but it provides a blueprint,” Neil Turkewitz, executive vice president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said in an interview. “The digital text is bare-bones because governments believe we are at time when you shouldn’t get locked into a static solution.”
The U.S. effort to export provisions of U.S. copyright law ran afoul of a pledge by negotiators not to impose requirements that would necessitate legal changes in any of the countries, said Rob Calia, senior director for counterfeiting and piracy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“They ran into many problems as they tried to make it very specific,” Calia said in an interview. While the deal is a good step forward “we’re disappointed that a more specific agreement was not possible at this time,” he said.
Mistique Cano, a spokeswoman for Mountain View, California- based Google, didn’t return telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment.
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