ACTA's worse than SOPA and
PIPA. Net Neutrality and free expression are threatened. In October
2007, negotiations began secretly.
At issue is establishing a new intellectual property enforcement treaty
- the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). If adopted, fundamental
freedoms will be lost. Privatized online censorship will rule. Internet
actors will be copyright enforcers. Offenders will face harsh criminal
Transparency's entirely absent. So is major media coverage explaining
an issue demanding headlines.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says we've all got a "right
to be furious about ACTA." Killing it's essential.
"If there's one thing....wrong with (how) government(s now function),
ACTA is it," says EFF. Washington and other dominant countries drafted
it. Others are pressured to comply per America's annual Special 301
At issue is establishing new Internet rules, "bypass(ing) checks and
balances of existing international IP norm-setting bodies, without any
meaningful input from national parliaments, policymakers, or their citizens."
Moreover, the agreement creates a czar-like global "ACTA Committee."
Unelected bureaucrats will oversee supranational interpretation and
implementation. Arbitrary top-down rule will be imposed. In the process,
democratic freedoms will be lost.
On January 26, 22 of 27 EU natons signed ACTA in Tokyo. Many steps remain
before ratification. In June, the EU Parliament will vote up or down
on approval. Global activism must stop it. Jeremie Zimmerman,
spokesperson for the citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net, said:
"In the last few days, we have seen encouraging protests by Polish and
other EU citizens, who are rightly concerned with the effect of ACTA
on freedom of expression, access to (generic) medicines (and safe foods),
but also access to culture and knowledge."
Anti-ACTA momentum's building. Citizens "must reclaim democracy, against
the harmful influence of corporate interests over global policy-making."
Acting up against ACTA is crucial.
In December, the Council of the European Union (one of two EU legislative
bodies representing all 27 member states) adopted ACTA during an unrelated
agriculture and fisheries meeting.
In America, constitutional issues remain. Last October, Obama signed
it by "executive agreement." He falsely claimed ACTA's not a treaty
requiring Senate approval. By law, executive agreements apply only to
sole presidential authority issues. Treaties must be ratified by a two-thirds
Obama's stonewalling. He's circumventing legal issues like always. He
also broke a campaign pledge to preserve Internet freedom. Instead,
he's trashing it by diktat authority.
In 2010, Law Professors Jack Goldsmith and Larry Lessig questioned executive
agreement constitutionality, saying:
"The president has no independent constitutional authority over intellectual
property or communications policy, and there is no long historical practice
of making sole executive agreements in this area. To the contrary, the
Constitution gives primary authority over these matters to Congress,
which is charged with making laws that regulate foreign commerce and
EFF contributors Eddan Katz and Gwen Hinze called US trade policy and
intellectual property (IP) enforcement at a crossroads in governing
the global knowledge economy.
Corporate enforcement demands "now threaten to undermine the balance
of IP at the foundation of sustainable innovation and creativity. IP
enforcement isolated from innovation policy ignore the legal flexibility
that enables information technology to emerge, obstructs access to knowledge,
and threatens citizens' civil liberties."
ACTA's an extralegal plurilateral agreement bypassing multilateral institutions
like the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and World Trade
Organization (WTO) where international IP norms are set. ACTA excludes
checks and balances.
In America, presidential diktat authority's circumventing constitutional
law. The founders gave executives power solely to negotiate treaties.
The Senate alone may pass or reject them. ACTA undermines established
law by shutting out Congress and popular sentiment.
Given its impact on America's knowledge economy and Internet, diktat
presidential authority must be stopped. If enacted and enforced, corporations
will control global Internet traffic. Censorship will follow. Offenders
will be prosecuted. Existing laws will be undermined. So will global
information flows and constitutionally protected speech.
As a result, open public debate is essential and Senate authority over
foreign trade agreements enforced. So is saving constitutional freedoms.
Existing laws should be enforced. Presidents have no right to violate
them. Congress needs to act and enforce rule of law standards, especially
on issues of fundamental freedoms.
US public interest groups and responsible politicians understand ACTA's
problems. Others must be enlisted to publicly address them and demand
Congress act. European Parliament ACTA rapporteur, Kader Arif, quit
in protest, saying:
"I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process
that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society
organizations, a lack of transparency from the start of negotiations,
repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation
being ever given, (and) exclusion of the EU Parliament's demands that
were expressed on several occasions in our assembly."
"This agreement might have major consequences on citizens' lives, and
still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from
having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this
report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and
alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not
take part in this masquerade."
Corrupted public officials signed ACTA. Doing so trashed fundamental
freedoms in deference to corporate ones bribing and pressuring them
to go along. When fundamental freedoms are risked, it's essential everyone
get in the fight to save them.
A Final Comment
On January 26, EFF headlined, "Under Obama, the Freedom of Information
Act is Still in Shackles," saying:
On his first day in office, Obama's infamous memo promised transparency
and open government, saying:
"My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of
openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust
and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.
Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficient and effective(ness)
Obama's a serial liar. "Openness" was code language for America's most
secretive administration. Subverting FOIA is one of many examples of
Obama’s rogue governance. Secrecy and public trust betrayal trust took
As a result, vital public information's suppressed. FOIA "deliberative
process (DP)" exemptions are abused, including withholding documents
dealing with decision making issues. In Obama's first year, he invoked
DP exemptions an astonishing 70,779 times.
Moreover, in year two, a National Security Archive study found "less
than one-third of the 90 federal agencies that process such FOIA requests
have made significant changes in their procedures," even on transparency
Yet when questioned at a town hall meeting, Obama claimed his administration's
the most transparent in modern history. Public ignorance lets him get
away with it and much more. EFF said government secrecy under Obama
reached "absurd (unprecedented) levels."
One of many examples involves a little-known provision of financial
reform legislation. It says the SEC "no longer has to comply with virtually
all requests for information releases from the public, including those
filed under" FOIA requests. No wonder. Wall Street crooks wrote the
law to assure business as usual and more.
Similar examples affect many other agencies, including the State Department,
DHS, EPA and NASA. In December 2011, Citizens for Responsibility and
Ethics in Washington (CREW) and OpenTheGovernment.org found Obama’s
administration withheld information one-third more often than Bush in
his last year in office. Imagine what's coming if he's reelected.
EFF called his Justice Department's attempt to change FOIA regulations
perhaps his worst open government violation. Under a proposed rule,
"instead of refusing to confirm or deny a document is in the Department's
possession, the agency could 'respond to the request as if the excluded
records" don't exist.
Mocking FOIA rights, it authorizes lying. After Congress and public
interest groups complained, DOJ softened its rules. However, the Sunlight
Foundation said DOJ revisions are still "worse than reported." They
let reviewers dismiss requests for trivial reasons.
Obama's systematically trashing rule of law standards affecting domestic
and foreign policies. He's killing "the very law (he) championed at
the start of his administration." His transparency pledge became "a
(sick joke) punch line rather than a re-election slogan."
As a result, freedom's on the chopping block for elimination unless
mass public outrage stops it. There's no time to waste doing it, starting
with killing ACTA.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
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