ACTA Is Getting More Serious Oposition in the US and in the EU

The_Mouth_of_SauronACTA is in the news again today as we hear from more than a few people on the implications of the treaty and what consequences it might have. Interestingly it looks like ACTA was originally designed to handle the large scale manufacture and distribution of counterfeit physical products (for prescription drugs actually). Some have suggested that the import of items (like the fake Gucci and Fendi bags you can find for sale on some street corners…) has a drastic impact on the sales and profit of those companies. This is the same logic that is put forward for the theft of virtual property like IP, music, and videos.

It almost seems that someone decided to tack on the remnants from SOPA to the end of ACTA to get it pushed through at a global level. Although the general public cannot really get their hands on a full copy of the treaty (the guys that hold that claim national security). We can gain a lot from of information from the key talking points that keep popping up.

It seems that ACTA wants to lock in all copyright and IP laws. Countries that ratify this would not be able to change their own laws without approval. Who exactly would grant or deny this approval is unclear, but at the time of this writing it looks like it would be a trade body outside the WTO (World Trade Organization) and would be made up of representatives from the US Entertainment Industry and other copyright holders. This means that a corporate entity would be in control of the Laws.

We find it very unsettling that the US would propose a global treaty like this which was drafted by corporations whose only interests are company profits. It is also interesting that these same companies that wave the flag of protecting US Intellectual Property are also lobbying to push more jobs to foreign countries. Fortunately, not everyone in government has drunk the Kool-Aid offered by the big copyright holders. There are a few that have read the treaty and are very concerned. Not only are they concerned about the actual verbiage of treaty, but they are concerned about the way it has been kept from public discourse.

One of these is Rapporteur David Martin MEP (Member of European Parliament) who has commented that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) should not have to act as a police force to maintain copyright protections. He also feels that the criminalization of pirating software and other files could lead to the industry targeting individuals. The Alliance Against IP Theft argued that this would never happen (apparently they missed all of the law suits in the US against file sharers…).

Meanwhile around 50 scholars have piped up and sent off a letter to the US Senate asking them where their review of ACTA is and what the outcome was. You see in the US to enter a treaty (of any kind really) the Executive branch requires a 2/3 pro vote by the senate. This has not happened. Also the normal review by the US State Department did not take place, in their words, because it is not an “international treaty”. This last one gets us as it is most certainly intended to be an international treaty.

State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh made a comment that ACTA does not require Senate approval because of the 2008 Pro-IP Act. However, ACTA kicked off in 2007 so the US had already entered into and signed ACTA before Pro-IP was passed. Further to that the Scholars claim that Pro-IP does not have any language that allows the US Trade Rep (who has shown himself to be nothing more than a mouthpiece for the copyright lobby) to bind the US to any agreements.

“First, the plain language of Section 8113(a) of the PRO-IP Act[1] does not authorize USTR to bind the U.S. to any international agreement. Rather, the section merely describes the purposes of a “Joint Strategic Plan against counterfeiting and infringement,” to be coordinated among multiple agencies by the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC). The purposes of the Plan include “working with other countries to establish international standards and policies for the enforcement of intellectual property rights.” Nowhere in Section 8113 does the PRO-IP Act mention the negotiation of international agreements. Rather, subsection (f), which describes specific means for “enhancing enforcement efforts of foreign governments,” requires only “programs to provide training and technical assistance to foreign governments for the purpose of enhancing the efforts of such governments to enforce laws against counterfeiting and infringement.”[2] Read in its context, the language cited by Koh as justifying ACTA does no more than require a multi-agency plan to provide technical assistance to foreign governments. Indeed, the cited passage is not addressed to USTR.”

There is more strong language in the letter that you can read in its entirety below. Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, The Anonymous Movement and others are working to get more information out to the public about this new (and dangerous agreement). However, there is the tiny issue that with laws like SOPA, PIPA, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, CISPA and many more in the pipeline would the Senate actually oppose ACTA? We have a feeling that with the way things are moving in the US they would happily sign on the dotted line and then hold out their hands for that next “campaign donation”.

Still we are somewhat pleased to see so many countries backing away from ACTA, and TPP mostly due to the ridiculous US IP protections that are being asked for.

Full Copy of the Letter sent to the Senate.

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