United States Trade Representative (USTR) FOIA requests

Before (or after) reading these accounts of FOIA requests to USTR, you might also review the transparency memorandum issued by President Obama in January 2009.

The following are some recent FOIA requests for USTR:

  • On January 31, 2009, KEI submitted a FOIA request for seven documents containing the leaked ACTA text. On March 10, 2009, the White House denied the request. More information about this request is found here and here.
  • On May 21, 2009, in response to a KEI FOIA, USTR provided copies of Ambassador Kirk's daily calendar, for the period March 20 to May 1.
  • On July 30, 2009, USTR rejected a KEI request for documents relating to a Morocco negotiating session for ACTA. More here. In addition to the information on the blog entry, note that USTR also refused to release (a) the names of the documents, or quite remarkably, (b) the names of the countries that have authored the documents.
  • On September 11, 2009, KEI asked for the names of persons to whom the USTR has been given access to the U.S. government position on the Internet provisions for ACTA. This is our second request for this information. The first was already rejected, in part on the grounds that there may be national security concerns about revealing who in the private sector the U.S. government consults on the ACTA provisions. Before making this most recent request, USTR did acknowledge the following:

    "We've consulted with an array of experts from various IP and tech industries and associations and NGOs in the process of deliberation regarding a US proposal on one section of the agreement."

    I have blogged about this issue here. The FOIA request follows:

    To: jcaldwell@ustr.eop.gov
    Subject: FOIA Request relating to Internet Sections of ACTA, September 11, 2009
    Date: Fri, 11 Sep 2009 18:49:09 -0400

    Dear Jacqueline B. Caldwell,

    Under the Freedom of Information Act, KEI requests the following information:

    1. The names of all persons not employed by the U.S. government who have been given access to documents relating to the position of the U.S. government for the Internet provisions of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

    2. Copies of all Non-Disclosure Agreements relating to item 1.

    3. Copies of all power point slides prepared by the USTR staff over the past six months, describing any aspect of the ACTA negotiation.

    KEI also requests a waiver of fees. KEI intends to publish a story about this topic in the Huffington Post.

    Thank you.

    James Love

    On October 9, 2009, USTR provided all of the documents requested by KEI. Information from this FOIA request is reported here.

  • Also on September 11, 2009, KEI filed a FOIA for recent copies of Ambassador Kirk's daily schedule, and documents relating to the WIPO negotiations on a treaty for the blind. (USTR has been privately telling Geneva negotiators that US government wants to block the treaty).

    To: Jacqueline B. Caldwell
    Subject: Daily Schedule of Ambassador Kirk, WIPO treaty for persons who are blind or have other disabilities
    Date: Fri, 11 Sep 2009 19:01:38 -0400

    Dear Jacqueline B. Caldwell

    Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), KEI requests the following documents:

    1. The Daily Schedule of Ambassador Kirk, from May 2 to the present. KEI is asking for updated version of these documents received earlier in a previous foia:

    http://www.keionline.org/blogs/2009/05/24/calendar-ambassador-kirk

    2. Any documents relating to the proposal at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for a treaty for persons who are blind or have other reading disabilities, including but not limited to any communications with publishers, trade associations, or others regarding the topic of the treaty, and any communication with other governments concerning the treaty.

    KEI requests a waiver for fees for this request. We are willing to provide additional information regarding the fee waiver issue if that is necessary.

    James Love

    On November 6, 2009, we received documents related to item (1), the daily calendar of Ambassador Kirk.

  • On September 12, 2009, KEI filed the following FOIA request with USTR concerning the out-of-cycle review of the IPR policies of the Philippines.

    From: James Love
    To: Jacqueline B. Caldwell
    Subject: FOIA Request regarding out of cycle review of Philippines
    Date: Sat, 12 Sep 2009 13:57:11 -0400

    Dear Jacqueline B. Caldwell,

    In April 2009, the USTR announced it would "conduct Out-of-Cycle Reviews for Fiji, Israel, the Philippines, Poland, and Saudi Arabia to monitor progress on specific IPR issues."

    Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) requests copies of documents relating to the out-of-cycle review of the Philippines, including but not limited to any electronic mail, fax, letter or other communication between USTR and the pharmaceutical industry, or law firms, consultants, public relations firms, lobbyists or others working their behalf, any member of congress, communications with foreign governments or other agencies with the U.S. federal government, regarding this process, and any other documents relevant to the out-of-cycle review.

    Thank you.

    James Love

    On October 13, USTR said it did not receive this request. It was then refiled.

  • On September 14, 2009, KEI asked USTR for documents relating to the out-of-cycle review of Poland. PhRMA's 2009 301 submission (attached) included extensive comments on Poland. In the April 30, 2009 301 Report, USTR said it "will conduct an OCR to examine whether Poland continues to make progress on IPR enforcement, including through implementation of its National IPR Action Plan."

    -------- Forwarded Message --------
    From: James Love
    To: Jacqueline B. Caldwell
    Subject: FOIA, out of cycle review of Poland IPR issues
    Date: Mon, 14 Sep 2009 11:14:40 -0400

    Dear Jacqueline B. Caldwell,

    In April 2009, the USTR announced it would "conduct Out-of-Cycle Reviews for Fiji, Israel, the Philippines, Poland, and Saudi Arabia to monitor progress on specific IPR issues."

    Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) requests copies of documents relating to the out-of-cycle review of Poland, including but not limited to any electronic mail, fax, letter or other communication between USTR and the pharmaceutical industry, or law firms, consultants, public relations firms, lobbyists or others working their behalf, any member of congress, communications with foreign governments or other agencies with the U.S. federal government, regarding this process, and any other relevant documents relevant to the out-of-cycle review.

    We are particularly interested in documents relating to intellectual property norms and practices for medical inventions, as well as anything relating to the pricing of medical inventions.

    If the USTR is active in issues relating to IPR on medical inventions in Poland, KEI intends to write about this topic for newspapers, policy journals or web based magazines, and requests a waiver of fees.

    If the out-of-cycle review does not involve IPR or pricing of medical technologies, KEI will consider withdrawing this request.

    Thank you.

    On October 13, 2009, KEI verbally agreed to narrow the request to information relevant to medical technologies, and to exclude materials on general copyright and trademark infringement not relevant to pharmaceutical or biologic drugs or medical devices.

  • The September 14, 2009, KEI asked USTR for documents related to recent U.S./Japan discussions about the protection of regulatory test data for pharmaceutical or biologic products. More background on the U.S./Japan discussions is available here.

    -------- Forwarded Message --------
    From: James Love
    To: Jacqueline B. Caldwell
    Subject: FOIA Request, US/Japan discussions regarding pharmaceutical test data
    Date: Mon, 14 Sep 2009 14:16:33 -0400

    Dear USTR FOIA officer

    On July 6, 2009, a report of the the U.S.-Japan Regulatory Reform and Competition Policy Initiative was presented to President Obama and Prime Minister Aso of Japan.

    Included in this report was the following passage:

    XVII. MEDICAL DEVICES AND PHARMACEUTICALS

    The Government of the United States and the Government of Japan have discussed the Government of Japan’s recommendation regarding the protection of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products.

    I request documents relevant to item XVII, namely the discussions about the protection of test data for pharmaceutical or biologic products.

    This would include exchanges of information with the private sector or with foreign governments, as well as government documents of any kind.

    KEI is preparing a series of policy and academic papers on the topic of the international norms for the protection of regulatory test data for pharmaceutical and biologic products. I request a waiver of fees for this request.

    Sincerely,

    James Love

  • On September 16, 2009, KEI asked for copies of USTR Special 301 Reports in electronic format, for years 1996 or earlier.

    -------- Forwarded Message --------
    From: James Love
    To: jcaldwell@ustr.eop.gov
    Subject: FOIA Request
    Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2009 17:45:44 -0400

    Dear USTR FOIA Officer

    KEI is creating a research tool for USTR Special 301 Reports. The
    current version of the page is here:

    http://www.keionline.org/ustr/special301

    At present, we have copies of 301 reports from 1997 to 2009.

    We request, under FOIA, copies of electronic versions of Special 301 Reports from 1996 and earlier, if they exist.

    Examples of helpful formats would be copies of the Special 301 report in Wordperfect or Microsoft word processing formats
    (wpd, .doc, .rtf, etc), or in PDF or html formats.

    Thank you.

    James Love

    On September 28, 2009, USTR complied with this request in full and all the Special 301 Reports are now available here.

  • On September 18, 2009, KEI requested information on the out-of-cycle review of Israel.

    -------- Forwarded Message --------
    From: James Love
    To: Jacqueline B. Caldwell
    Subject: FOIA, out-of-cycle review, Israel
    Date: Fri, 18 Sep 2009

    USTR FOIA Officer

    Dear Jacqueline B. Caldwell,

    In April 2009, the USTR announced it would "conduct Out-of-Cycle Reviews for Fiji, Israel, the Philippines, Poland, and Saudi Arabia to monitor progress on specific IPR issues."

    Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) requests copies of documents relating to the out-of-cycle review of Israel, including but not limited to any electronic mail, fax, letter or other communication between USTR and the pharmaceutical industry, or law firms, consultants, public relations firms, lobbyists or others working their behalf, any member of congress, communications with foreign governments or other agencies with the U.S. federal government, regarding this process, and any other relevant documents relevant to the out-of-cycle review.

    We are particularly interested in documents relating to intellectual property norms and practices for medical inventions, as well as anything relating to the pricing of medical inventions.

    If the USTR is active in issues relating to IPR on medical inventions in Israel, KEI intends to write about this topic for newspapers, policy journals or web based magazines, and requests a waiver of fees.

    If the out-of-cycle review does not involve IPR or pricing of medical technologies, KEI will consider withdrawing this request.

    Thank you

    On October 13, 2009, KEI verbally agreed to review an initial set of documents, including communications with Congress and private companies, before deciding on the full request.

  • On October 2, 2009, we asked for certain communications between USTR and members of Congress.

    -------- Forwarded Message --------
    From: James Love
    To: Jacqueline B. Caldwell
    Subject: FOIA Request
    Date: Fri, 02 Oct 2009 14:40:28 -0400

    Jacqueline B. Caldwell
    USTR FOIA Officer

    Dear FOIA Officer

    KEI requests under the freedom of information act, copies of all communications with members of the U.S. Congress or their staff, on the topic of intellectual property rights or the pricing of pharmaceutical or biologic drugs, vaccines, or medical devices. This includes, for example, copies of letters received by USTR or letter sent to Members of Congress or their staff, as well as email messages, or briefings or testimony that have been prepared for the Congress, on these topics.

    The period of the request is for January 1, 2009, until October 2, 2009.

    I intend to use this information in an article I am writing for the Huffington Post, as well as for a chapter in a book that I am writing, and in an article that will be submitted to a law review.

    KEI is a non-profit organization. I request a waiver of fees.

    I am assuming the USTR keeps fairly good files on its communications with members of Congress. I am willing to discuss narrowing this request, if there is a good reason to do so.

    Sincerely,

    James Love
    Knowledge Ecology International

  • On October 14, KEI requested documents relating to the USTR its review of transparency policies.

    -------- Forwarded Message --------
    From: James Love
    To: Jacqueline B. Caldwell
    Subject: FOIA, regarding USTR polices on transparency
    Date: Wed, 14 Oct 2009 07:13:09 -0400

    United States Trade Representative
    1724 F Street, N.W., Room 514
    Washington, D.C. 20508

    FOIA Officer

    Dear Jacqueline B. Caldwell,

    KEI requests all records at USTR on the topic of the policy and practice of USTR regard the transparency of trade negotiations, including but not limited to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

    The period for this request is from January 1, 2009 to the present.

    KEI intends to use this information to evaluate the degree to which the USTR is providing the public timely and relevant information about important norm setting activities in the area of intellectual property right rules and practices. We expect to publish and share information from the FOIA request on the KEI web page and also write about these issues in the Huffington Post, in academic articles and in other fora, and to send news releases to journalists and Internet listserves to further disseminate information. KEI is a non-commercial entity that will not benefit commercially from this request, and requests a waiver of fees.

    Among the documents that are expected to be relevant to this request are the communications within USTR and between USTR and other federal agencies, the White House and the Congress, and between USTR and the private sector, on the policies regarding transparency of trade negotiations.

    This would of course include but not be limited to all discussions of the use of non disclosure agreements to allow selected persons to see versions of documents for the ACTA negotiations, including the determinations of who would be offered access to documents under the NDA, and who would not be offered access to the documents.

    Sincerely,

    James Love

  • On March 10, 2010, KEI requested the USTR for the visitor sign-in sheets of the Office of the USTR for the period of February 22-March 10, 2010.
  • On July 2, 2010, KEI requested the USTR for information regarding country positions on the release of the ACTA negotiating text after the 9th round negotiations in Lucerne, Switzerland:

    1. Documents relating to the position of the United States as shared with third-country negotiating partners during the 9th round negotiations of ACTA that took place in Lucerne, Switzerland from June 28 to July 1, 2010, including but not limited to position papers, analyses and records of verbal communications on the topic of the public release of the draft negotiating text of the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

    2. Documents that identify the positions of any other country in the ACTA negotiation during the Lucerne meeting on the issue of the transparency of the draft ACTA text, including but not limited to position papers, analyses and records of verbal communications.

    USTR responded to this FOIA on January 10, 2012, withholding all relevant documents. (See: http://keionline.org/node/1636)

  • A January 7, 2011 request for communications with Congress (since Jan 1, 2010) regarding ACTA:

    January 7, 2011

    FOIA Officer
    Jacqueline B. Caldwell
    jcaldwell@ustr.eop.gov

    1724 F Street, N.W., Room 514
    Washington, D.C. 20508

    Dear Jacqueline B. Caldwell,

    Knowledge Ecology International submits this FOIA request, asking for
    copies of communications between USTR and members of Congress or their
    staff, on the topic of the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade
    Agreement. To the extent that such communications were covered in
    earlier KEI FOIA requests, you may limit the search to newer
    documents. In fact, you may limit the request to communications from
    January 1, 2010 to the present.

  • On January 11, 2011, KEI requested the USTR for all documents prepared or received on the topic of the use of compulsory licenses on medical patents by the Government of Thailand for the time period of January 20th, 2009 until the present, specifically:

    1. Copies of documents relating to any review and evaluation of intellectual property policies in Thailand, that relate to medical technologies.

    2. Copies of documents relating to communication regarding policies and practices of compulsory licensing of medical patents in Thailand, including but not limited to any notes, memorandums, reports, cables, electronic mail, fax, letter or other communication between your department and the pharmaceutical industry, or law firms, consultants, public relations firms, lobbyists or others working their behalf, as well as communications with any member of congress or their staff, communications with foreign governments or with other agencies within the U.S. federal government, or involving any other person.

    3. Copies of documents relating to any conclusions reached or position papers prepared on compulsory licensing practices in Thailand,

    4. Any other documents relevant to or regarding the use of the compulsory licensing of medical patents by Thailand.

  • February 8, 2011

    February 8, 2011

    FOIA Officer
    Jacqueline B. Caldwell
    jcaldwell@ustr.eop.gov
    1724 F Street, N.W., Room 514
    Washington, D.C. 20508

    Dear Ms Caldwell,

    As you know, KEI submitted a FOIA request on January 7, 2011, for
    documents related to ACTA. Among the documents that would be covered
    by this request is a fairly recent study by the Library of Congress,
    done upon request for Senator Wyden. This study examined the
    consistency of US law to ACTA. Senator Wyden or his staff has shared
    with document with Stan McCoy and other USTR officials. I would very
    much appreciate as an early deliverable on the other FOIA request,
    this particular document. I note that we have had a number of media
    requests for this study, and request from several NGOs and academic
    experts for this document. Also, I specifically request a digital
    copy of the document, if one exists. (Additional information about
    the requested study is available here: http://keionline.org/node/969).

    Sincerely,

    James Love
    Knowledge Ecology International

  • March 23, 2011

    FOIA Appeals Committee
    Office of the Untied States Trade Representative
    1724 F Street NW
    Washington, DC 20508

    Re: Freedom of Information Act Appeal

    Dear FOIA Appeals Committee:

    This letter is an appeal from your February 25, 2011 denial of my January 7, 2011 and February 8, 2011 requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for a

    fairly recent study [on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement] by the Library of Congress, done upon request for Senator Wyden. This study examined the
    consistency of US law to ACTA. Senator Wyden or his staff has shared
    this document with Stan McCoy and other USTR officials.

    Your denial letter states that this study is not an agency record because the Congressional Research Service retained control over it.

    I request that you reconsider the denial. Agency records are subject to FOIA. A record produced by Congress and later acquired by the agency qualifies as an agency record if the agency controls it. U.S. Dept. of Justice v. Tax Analysts, 492 U.S. 136, 144 (1989). The issue of control turns in large part on whether evidence exists that Congress intended to control exclusively the record. United We Stand Am., Inc. v. I.R.S., 359 F.3d 595, 600 (D.C. Cir. 2004). For example, in Goland v. Cent. Intelligence Agency, 607 F.2d 339, 347 (D.C. Cir. 1978), Congress gave a hearing transcript to the CIA for internal reference purposes only. It marked the transcript “secret” and explained that only it had the power to declassify it. Based on the “circumstances attending the document’s generation and the conditions attached to its possession by the CIA,” the court concluded that Congress, not the CIA, had control over it. By contrast, in Holy Spirit Ass’n for the Unification of World Christianity v. Cent. Intelligence Agency, 636 F.2d 838, 843 (D.C. Cir. 1980), Congress gave records to the CIA “with no accompanying letter or instructions.” Under those circumstances, the court found “insufficient evidence of Congress’ intent to retain control over [the] documents.”
    Here, as in Holy Spirit, no evidence exists that Senator Wyden’s office put any conditions or limitations on USTR’s use of the report. Accordingly, Congress cannot be said to retain exclusive control over the report, and therefore it is an agency record subject to FOIA.
    Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. I will expect a determination with respect to this appeal within twenty working days, as required by law. If you have any questions regarding this appeal, please contact me at 1.202.332.2670 or Michael Page, an attorney at Public Citizen Litigation Group, at 1.202.588.7733.

    Sincerely,

    James Love

  • 27 September 2011, TPPA documents

    27 September 2011

    Jacqueline B. Caldwell
    FOIA Officer, USTR
    jcaldwell@ustr.eop.gov
    1724 F Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20508

    Dear Jacqueline B. Caldwell,

    Knowledge Ecology International submits this FOIA request for certain information about the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). More public information about the agreement is available on the USTR web page here: http://www.ustr.gov/tpp .

    KEI requests the following documents:

    1. Copies of all negotiating texts submitted to the TPPA negotiating partners by the United States in the TPPA negotiations for the year 2011.
    2. Copies of email and other correspondence between USTR and representatives of PhRMA, BIO, their pharmaceutical and biotechnology member companies, Microsoft, the Chamber of Commerce, or law firms or other persons lobbying on their behalf, or trade associations or publishers following copyright issues, as regards the TPPA provisions on intellectual property, pricing of pharmaceutical drugs, investments or government procurement.
    3. Copies of email and other correspondence between USTR and Members of Congress or their staff, regarding the TPPA negotiation.
    4. Copies of email and other correspondence between USTR and members of the press, regarding the TPPA negotiation.
    5. A list of all persons who have received copies of U.S. government proposed negotiating texts, who do not work for the U.S. government. For example, if staff members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce were given prior access to the negotiating text on the TPPA provisions on state owned enterprises, or if staff or representatives of BIO or PhRMA were given access to text submitted in Chicago concerning IPR and pricing of pharmaceutical and biological medicines, KEI requests the names of persons given such access.
    6. A list of all communications with non-US employees relating to the USTR white paper on access to medicines that was published in September 2011. (Background here: http://keionline.org/node/1262)

On September 10, 2013, KEI submitted a FOIA request regarding all email correspondence between the Office of the USTR and any pharmaceutical companies, representatives, and trade associations. The request is particularly concerned with correspondence between these organizations and senior USTR officials. The text of the FOIA request is below:

From: Claire Cassedy
To: Jacqueline B. Caldwell
Subject: FOIA Request regarding pharmaceutical companies, affiliates, and USTR staff
Date: Tuesday, 10 Sept 2013 13:33:11 -0400

Dear Jacqueline Caldwell,

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) requests all email correspondence from pharmaceutical companies, representatives, and trade associations to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, including any members of the USTR staff.    We are particularly interested in communications with senior USTR offices including Ambassador Froman and his staff, including, for example:
Deputy United States Trade Representative Michael Punke, Ambassador (Geneva), General Counsel Timothy Reif, Christine Bliss, AUSTR for Services and Investment, Mark Linscott, AUSTR for WTO & Multilateral Affairs, Florizelle Liser, AUSTR for Africa, Stanford McCoy, AUSTR for Intellectual Property and Innovation, Barbara Weisel, AUSTR for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and John Melle, AUSTR for Americas. 

The period of the request is from January 1, 2013 to the present. We are happy to narrow the scope of this request if it would expedite the timeline for response.

KEI is interested in writing a story for the Huffington Post regarding the role of pharmaceutical companies in trade negotiations.

As a non-profit organization, KEI requests a waiver for the fees for this request. KEI intends to widely disseminate this information.  KEI itself has published or been quoted widely as regards issues of ethics in government, and on the relationship between industry lobby groups and government officials.  One recent example of this are the following stories that were based upon a FOIA request to the USPTO regarding communications between the MPAA and the USPTO over a different intellectual property negotiation.

  • Kimberly Kindy, Filmmakers’ group tries to reshape treaty that would benefit the blind, Washington Post, web version, June 22, 2013, print version June 23, 2013.
  • Paige McClanahan, US film industry tries to weaken copyright treaty for blind people: Treaty to make copyrighted works available for visually impaired people – 90% of whom live in global south – coming up against film lobby.  The Guardian, Monday 24 June 2013
  • Mike Masnick, MPAA's Actions, Emails Show That They're Doing Everything Possible To Screw Over The Blind:  from the how-can-they-deny-it? dept, TechDirt.Com  June 24, 2013
  • Catherine Saez, WIPO Negotiators Reach Breakthrough On “3-Step Test” In Treaty For Blind, IP-Watch.Org, Published on 24 June 2013

The above stories demonstrate that in the past, KEI has effectively used FOIA requests to widely disseminate information that is in the public interest. We are willing to provide additional information regarding the fee waiver issue if that is necessary. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Claire Cassedy

On Wednesday, September 11, 2013, KEI submitted a FOIA request to the USTR requesting all correspondence from Thaddeus Burn, Senior Counsel-Intellectual Property and Trade at General Electric, and the Office of the USTR concerning KEI, the WTO, and TRIPS. The request is as follows:

From: Claire Cassedy
To: Jacqueline B. Caldwell
Subject: FOIA Request regarding Thaddeus Burns and USTR
Date: Weds 11 Sept 2013 16:34:11 -0400

Dear Jacqueline Caldwell,

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) requests all correspondence from Thaddeus Burns, Senior Counsel, Intellectual Property & Trade at General Electric, to the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Particularly important are emails which mention: 1) Knowledge Ecology International, 2) the World Trade Organization and 3) the World Trade Organization Council for TRIPS (TRIPS Council).

The period of the request is from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012. We are happy to narrow the scope of this request if it would expedite the timeline for response.

KEI is interested in writing a story for the Huffington Post regarding the role of General Electric in trade negotiations.

As a non-profit organization, KEI requests a waiver for the fees for this request. KEI intends to widely disseminate this information. KEI itself has published or been quoted widely as regards issues of ethics in government, and on the relationship between industry lobby groups and government officials. One recent example of this are the following stories that were based upon a FOIA request to the USPTO regarding communications between the MPAA and the USPTO over a different intellectual property negotiation.

  • Kimberly Kindy, Filmmakers’ group tries to reshape treaty that would benefit the blind, Washington Post, web version, June 22, 2013, print version June 23, 2013.
  • Paige McClanahan, US film industry tries to weaken copyright treaty for blind people: Treaty to make copyrighted works available for visually impaired people – 90% of whom live in global south – coming up against film lobby. The Guardian, Monday 24 June 2013
  • Mike Masnick, MPAA's Actions, Emails Show That They're Doing Everything Possible To Screw Over The Blind: from the how-can-they-deny-it? dept, TechDirt.Com June 24, 2013
  • Catherine Saez, WIPO Negotiators Reach Breakthrough On “3-Step Test” In Treaty For Blind, IP-Watch.Org, Published on 24 June 2013

The above stories demonstrate that in the past, KEI has effectively used FOIA requests to widely disseminate information that is in the public interest. We are willing to provide additional information regarding the fee waiver issue if that is necessary. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Claire Cassedy

On September 17, 2013, KEI filed a FOIA request with the USTR seeking any correspondence from General Electric and the Office of the USTR regarding the WIPO Treaty for the Blind. Below is the text of the request:

From: Claire Cassedy
To: Jacqueline B. Caldwell
Subject: FOIA Request regarding USTR and General Electric
Date: Weds 17 Sept 2013 09:25:11 -0400

Dear Jacqueline Caldwell,

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) requests all correspondence sent to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative from General Electric including persons who represent and advise General Electric in the negotiations on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaty for the blind, some of whom are lawyers or consultants.

The period of the request is from January 1, 2013 to the present. We are happy to narrow the scope of this request if it would expedite the timeline for response.

KEI is interested in writing a story for the Huffington Post regarding the role of General Electric in trade negotiations.

As a non-profit organization, KEI requests a waiver for the fees for this request. KEI intends to widely disseminate this information. KEI itself has published or been quoted widely as regards issues of ethics in government, and on the relationship between industry lobby groups and government officials. One recent example of this are the following stories that were based upon a FOIA request to the USPTO regarding communications between the MPAA and the USPTO over a different intellectual property negotiation.

  • Kimberly Kindy, Filmmakers’ group tries to reshape treaty that would benefit the blind, Washington Post, web version, June 22, 2013, print version June 23, 2013.
  • Paige McClanahan, US film industry tries to weaken copyright treaty for blind people: Treaty to make copyrighted works available for visually impaired people – 90% of whom live in global south – coming up against film lobby. The Guardian, Monday 24 June 2013
  • Mike Masnick, MPAA's Actions, Emails Show That They're Doing Everything Possible To Screw Over The Blind: from the how-can-they-deny-it? dept, TechDirt.Com June 24, 2013
  • Catherine Saez, WIPO Negotiators Reach Breakthrough On “3-Step Test” In Treaty For Blind, IP-Watch.Org, Published on 24 June 2013

The above stories demonstrate that in the past, KEI has effectively used FOIA requests to widely disseminate information that is in the public interest. We are willing to provide additional information regarding the fee waiver issue if that is necessary. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Claire Cassedy