Press Release

Public Knowledge and EFF Ask Public Participation In Trade Advisory Groups

August 5, 2009 ,

The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) should open its influential advisory committees to public interest and consumer opinion, Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) told the House Ways & Means Committee.

Those industry trade advisory committees (ITAC) are composed exclusively of representatives of businesses, and follow a policy to exclude representatives of non-business organizations. One of those committees, ITAC 15, which deals with intellectual property issues, “overwhelmingly represents the interests of IP owners,” the groups said.

In a statement submitted Aug. 5 for the record on the July 21 hearing on trade advisory committees, the two organizations noted: “While U.S. IP [Intellectual Property] industries such as the pharmaceutical industry, the motion picture industry, and the recording industry have considerable influence in the formulation of these agreements, the American public has very little input in the process. In order to correct this imbalance and ensure that IP aspects of trade agreements reflect the interests of all Americans, Congress should facilitate greater public interest input into the process by which trade agreements are formulated.” A copy of the PK/EFF letter is here

The groups said in their statement that Congress should make it clear that the legislation governing former Federal advisory committees requires that trade advisory groups “should represent interests of all affected, including non-business interests.”

PK and EFF noted in particular that in negotiations for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), that Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have called for treaty provisions requiring Internet Service Providers to suspend customers accused of copyright infringement.

The groups argued: “These measures rely on ISPs and copyright owners making infringement determinations without judicial intervention and thus threaten consumers’ privacy and due process rights. While representatives of the MPAA and the RIAA, as members of ITAC 15, have the ability to influence the design of these provisions, consumers do not.”

In addition, the groups asked that documents surrounding trade negotiations be made more open to the public.