The anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) was released today. The release follows simmering controversy over the secretive discussions. Earlier drafts and country positions had been intermittently leaked. This is the first official release. It contains the full text, but it lacks the each country’s stated positions.

The decision to release the text emerged in response to “the dramatic 633 to 13 vote in the European Parliament, that demanded the text be published,” according to James Love, Director, KEI. Many of the arguments enumerated in the debate drew from the July 22, 2009 letter to the USTR signed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Essential Action, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), Public Knowledge, Salud y Fãrmacos, Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), and US PIRG.

The controversy has ranged from the contents of the proposed agreement to the manner by which it might be fulfilled. Lawrence Lessig and Jack Goldsmith, professors of law at Harvard, criticized both in an editorial in the Washington Post on 25 March 2010. The proposed agreement that had been leaked at the time reflected innovations that were not covered by US law and would preempt existing communications and intellectual property laws and enforcement. Lessig and Goldsmith argue that it would not only dramatically change many of these laws, but should the ACTA draft be passed by Obama, it would set a dangerous precedent for the expansion of presidential authority into the legislative branch.

The Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), a consumer-oriented trade advisory board to the US government and European Union, will hold an open discussion of the text on April 28th at the US Department of Commerce. The TACD membership includes 79 US and EU consumer organizations, as well as observer members from Canada and Australia. The organization aims to promote EU and US consumer interests in the context of EU and US political negotiations and agreements, and they have been very active on ACTA, as well as issues such as net neutrality.