ACTA:The Backdoor to SOPA

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

As Wikipedia noted on its website after SOPA and PIPA were taken off the table, “we’re not done yet”. Guess what, they were right, we aren’t done yet and it’s even worse. While we turned our backs on this transparent president was busy working on a “trade” agreement that is even worse than both those bill. It has been in the works since before 2008 and is designed to bypass the constitutional requirement of Senate ratification by calling it an “executive agreement.” Negotiations were held in secret and kept form the public and congress under the guise of “national security.”

What is this “agreement”?

It is called ACTA, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is a multi-country trade agreement that, according to Wikipedia:

{} is for the purpose of establishing international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement. The agreement aims to establish an international legal framework for targeting counterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement on the Internet, and would create a new governing body outside existing forums, such as the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, or the United Nations.

The agreement was signed on 1 October 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States. In January 2012, the European Union and 22 of its member states signed as well, bringing the total number of signatories to 31. After ratification by 6 states, the convention will come into force.

Supporting and negotiating countries have heralded the agreement as a response to “the increase in global trade of counterfeit goods and pirated copyright protected works”, while opponents have lambasted it for its potentially adverse effects on fundamental civil and digital rights, including freedom of expression and communication privacy. Others, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have derided the exclusion of civil society groups, developing countries and the general public from the agreement’s negotiation process and have described it as policy laundering. The signature of the EU and many of its member states resulted in the resignation in protest of the European Parliament’s appointed rapporteur, as well as widespread protests across Poland.

The negotiations for the ACTA treaty were conducted behind closed doors until a series of leaked documents relating to the negotiations emerged.

On 22 May 2008, a discussion paper about the proposed agreement was uploaded to Wikileaks. According to the discussion paper a clause in the draft agreement would allow governments to shut down websites associated with non-commercial copyright infringement, which was termed “the Pirate Bay killer” in the media. According to the leaked discussion paper the draft agreement would also set up an international agency that could force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide information about subscribers suspected of copyright infringers without a warrant.

(emphasis mine)

The United States already signed ACTA on October 1 in 2011, just before SOPA and PIPA started to get attention. On January 26, 2012, the European Union and 22 of its member states signed as well. After ratification by six member states, the convention will come into force.

As reported by TechDirt, the Obama’s “US Trade Representative (USTR) has made it clear that it has no intention of allowing Congress to ratify ACTA, but instead believes it can sign it unilaterally”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), for a long time the sole opponent of PIPA, sent a letter to President Obama in October expressing his objections:

Although the USTR insists that current U.S. law, and its application, conform to these standards, there are concerns that the agreement may work to restrain the U.S. from changing such rules and practices. As you know, the executive branch lacks constitutional authority to enter binding international agreements on matters under Congress’s plenary powers, including the Article I powers to regulate foreign commerce and protect intellectual property. Yet, through ACTA and without your clarification, the USTR looks to be claiming the authority to do just that. [..]

The statement by the USTR confuses the issue by conflating two separate stages of the process required for binding the U.S. to international agreements: entry and implementation. It may be possible for the U.S. to implement ACTA or any other trade agreement, once validly entered, without legislation if the agreement requires no change in U.S. law. But, regardless of whether the agreement requires changes in U.S. law, a point that is contested with respect to ACTA, the executive branch lacks constitutional authority to enter a binding international agreement covering issues delegated by the Constitution to Congress’ authority, absent congressional approval.

At the conclusion of the letter, Sen. Wyden requested that the President formerly declare that ACTA is not binding on the US. Somehow, that may not happen.

On the bright side, apparently, President Obama has found an issue where there is bipartisan agreement as Republican Congressman Darrell Issa (CA) called ACTA even more dangerous than SOPA:

As a member of Congress, it’s more dangerous than SOPA. It’s not coming to me for a vote. It purports that it does not change existing laws. But once implemented, it creates a whole new enforcement system and will virtually tie the hands of Congress to undo it.

This video from Inf0rmNati0n expalins how ACTA will effect us as individuals.

So what can we do to stop this? Get out your keyboards and man your cell phones. Call and email the White House and your elected representatives and tell them “Don’t Mess With The Internet.

Here are two petitions to sign

Please Submit ACTA to the Senate for Ratification as Required by the Constitution for Trade Agreements

End ACTA and Protect our right to privacy on the Internet

1 comment

    • TMC on February 1, 2012 at 2:44 pm
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