Interesting that opposition to the ACTA has finally been picked up in several different media outlets. For example, a blog at Forbes magazine has an article about the sudden breakdown in transparency in the Obama administration. Forbes had shown a fairly consistent bias against free and open source software, and issues concerning freedom. Note especially the ACTA is one of those initiatives carried over from the Bush Administration, a fact that Gary Shapiro notes.
There is one downside of these reports though. Although they all mention that it has been hard to keep the agreement secret because of leaks, there was not any credit given to wikileaks in the article. The link to the leaked text in Gary Shapiro’s article doesn’t even link directly to wikileaks, but to another site:
Anti-Counterfeiting Agreement Undermines Efforts Toward Transparency
Gary Shapiro, 04.13.10, 01:40 PM EDT
The most dangerous global trade agreement you’ve never heard of.
This week the White House sent out a press release touting the Obama administration’s efforts to increase transparency in government. “For too long Washington has closed itself off from the oversight of the American public,” President Obama said. “That’s why my administration is taking concrete steps to build a government that’s more transparent, open and accountable.”
Unfortunately, such openness and transparency is absent from the administration’s negotiation of a very important global agreement, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
ACTA is a multilateral global copyright agreement backed by the big-content companies, originated in the Bush administration and now being pushed by the Obama White House. The fact that you know little or nothing about ACTA is not coincidental. Supporters of this unwise agreement know that if it were exposed to the light of day, consumer outrage would stop the agreement from becoming law.
A small number of groups, including CEA, were allowed to read ACTA’s Internet-related provisions, in return for signing a non-disclosure agreement. That means we know what’s in the agreement, but are forbidden from talking about it under penalty of law. Fortunately, in the Internet age, it’s tough to keep people in the dark for long. Some nations that are uncomfortable with ACTA have leaked the text…Needless to say, all CEA’s public commentary on ACTA is based solely on these leaked drafts.
Thankfully, reason is beginning to prevail. Last month the European Parliament rejected ACTA by a vote of 666 to 13…
Several more links below the fold:
Jack Goldsmith and Lawrence Lessig, both of Harvard, in an Op-Ed at the Washington Post:
By Jack Goldsmith and Lawrence Lessig
Friday, March 26, 2010
The much-criticized cloak of secrecy that has surrounded the Obama administration’s negotiation of the multilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was broken Wednesday. The leaked draft of ACTA belies the U.S. trade representative’s assertions that the agreement would not alter U.S. intellectual property law. And it raises the stakes on the constitutionally dubious method by which the administration proposes to make the agreement binding on the United States.
The goal of the trade pact is to tighten enforcement of global intellectual property rules. The leaked draft, though incomplete in many respects, makes clear that negotiators are considering ideas and principles not reflected in U.S. law.
…It also might oblige the United States to impose criminal liability on those who “incite” copyright violation…
These proposals might or might not make sense. But they ought at least be subject to public deliberation. Normal constitutional procedures would require the administration to submit the final text of the agreement for Senate approval as a treaty or to Congress as a “congressional-executive” agreement. But the Obama administration has suggested it will adopt the pact as a “sole executive agreement” that requires only the president’s approval.
Such an assertion of unilateral executive power is usually reserved for insignificant matters. It has sometimes been employed in more important contexts, such as when Jimmy Carter ended the Iran hostage crisis and when Franklin Roosevelt recognized and settled expropriation claims with the Soviet Union.
These mostly secret negotiations have already violated the Obama administration’s pledge for greater transparency. Embracing this deal by sole executive agreement would repudiate its pledge to moderate assertions of executive power. Congress should resist this attempt to evade the checks established by our Framers.
The ever-cogent Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law spoke at the PublicACTA in Wellington New Zealand:
The Truth About ACTA: My PublicACTA Keynote Address
Tuesday April 13, 2010
As I posted over the weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in the PublicACTA conference in Wellington, New Zealand. The Wellington Declaration is a must-read, as is the extensive media coverage that ACTA has received over the past 48 hours in New Zealand (NZ PC World, National Business Review, IT News, ComputerWorld NZ, NZ Herald). The last few days have provided a model for how those concerned with ACTA should become engaged with future rounds of talks.
For those looking for up-to-date information on ACTA, my column this week (Toronto Star version, homepage version) previews the New Zealand talks, noting the pressure points on transparency and substance of the treaty.
Even better, all the videos from the PublicACTA conference can accessed online. I have embedded my talk below. It provides a primer on the background of ACTA, reasons for concern, and a brief comment on what can be done. An MP3 version of the same talk can be downloaded here.