American officials blocked European attempts to publish the latest draft of the global Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on an EU website after a Washington-based round of negotiations in August.
The European Commission, which has been feeling the heat from lobby groups and the European Parliament for greater transparency in the negotiations, debriefed MEPs on the August negotiations yesterday (1 September).
MEPs have been demanding to see the full negotiating text as they will be asked to give ACTA their consent in a vote later this year.
"If we want to be leaders in the EU on transparency, we really have to put more pressure on our partners to have more transparency," an Austrian Green MEP told EurActiv.
Swedish MEP and Swedish Pirate Party member Christian Engström did not take part in yesterday's debrief as he allegedly left a July meeting disgruntled that he could not distribute documents about the trade negotiations to fellow parliamentarians.
ACTA's contents has roused suspicions among Internet lobby groups in the EU who fear that the deal will allow governments to come down as hard on peer-to-peer file sharing as they would on commercial piracy.
This has been a long-running dispute in Europe, which first reared its head last year during tense negotiations over the revision of EU telecoms rules.
The so-called 'Telecoms Package' was derailed by parliamentary opposition to draft rules requesting Internet service providers to cut users' Web access when they are caught making illegal downloads after two consecutive warnings – the so-called 'three strikes' policy.
The package was finally voted on in November 2009 after the three strikes policy had been removed from it.
A slight change in the wording of ACTA will reportedly allow governments to legislate on piracy at their own discretion, according to a parliamentary source.
Ireland is the first country in the EU to introduce a three strikes approach after Internet service provider Eircom caved in to the pressure of a lawsuit filed against it by the music industry.
The US movie, music, software and other copyright-based industries calculate that they lose more than 13 billion euros in sales each year from pirated versions of their products sold around the world.
The United States believes differences about the scope of the agreement "are resolvable," according to Nefeterius McPherson, a spokeswoman for the US Trade Representative's office.
The next ACTA round is already set for September in Japan.