IP Enforcement Policies Stir Censorship Debate
Efforts to ramp up intellectual property enforcement in the digital marketplace are bumping up against free speech advocacy in an international treaty nearing completion and a pending Senate bill, CongressDaily reported.
Rights holders and many government leaders are determined to crack down on Internet piracy through stricter enforcement, but public-interest groups argue that such rules can jeopardize free speech, particularly in countries without the types of safeguard measures found in American law.
The U.S. Trade Representative's Office recently released the latest text -- and possibly the final version -- of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, an accord aimed at increasing international cooperation in curbing the piracy and counterfeiting of intellectual property. The current draft, which includes a section on the Internet, is the product of three years of negotiation and 11 rounds of talks.
"The general trend of ACTA is to shift enforcement standards from civil to criminal, from private parties to government entities, and to lower the evidentiary threshold for enforcement," said Sean Flynn, associate director of the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at American University. "All those shifts create more opportunities to use copyright enforcement as a pretext for censorship."
According to a USTR spokesperson, American officials crafting ACTA understand the concerns about free speech and address them in the agreement. Enforcement procedures in the digital environment must "preserve fundamental principles such as freedom of expression, fair process, and privacy," the text reads.
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