U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said he expects to complete a landmark trade pact to combat piracy worldwide within a month after resolving “a handful of remaining issues,” including ones with the European Union.
Kirk told Daily Variety that “our expectations are that we will have this wrapped up in a month, if not in several weeks.”
He said that some of the remaining issues with the EU involve geographical indicators, and “we think we have worked out compromise language acceptable to them.”
A draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which involves nearly 40 countries and has been in the works for three years, was unveiled earlier this month and spells out a plan for combating piracy and copyright infringement worldwide.
It has been a source of friction between the creative industries like Hollywood, and the tech sector and digital rights advocates, the latter of whom have argued that it is a backdoor way to squelch Internet freedom without having to go through Congress. The pact can be signed by President Obama by executive order.
The draft of the pact is more flexible in its approach than earlier versions, or rumors of what would be in the agreement.
“The upside is that there are extraordinary benefits to U.S. industries,” Kirk said. “On balance, this is an agreement with very strong protections for patent and copyright holders.”
It urges countries to at least have enforcement procedures in place to “permit effective action” against online infringement, and also calls for setting up procedures for copyright holders to seek injunctions and damages for violations.
“We went through extraordinary lengths with all of the stakeholders” to address their concerns, Kirk said, adding, “We worked very hard to strike the right balance in terms of freedom of speech and protection of intellectual property rights.”
One country that is not a party to the pact is China. Kirk said that while there was hope that the agreement itself would help pressure the government to join in, “more persuasive than any argument we could make to them is the development of their own indigenous communities.” He cited an “exploding tech industry” that was “very concerned about copyright and counterfeit.”
One persistent issue with the tech sector in the U.S. is the degree to which they would be held liable for infringement on their systems and sites, and Kirk said that they “feel like we were able to give them they protections that they need.”
He said the goal is for Obama to sign the agreement by the end of the year.
“It is well past the time to get this done,” Kirk said.