Conservative Political Commentary

Anti-socialist, anti-communist, anti-globalist, pro-Constitution,
and usually with an attempt at historical and economic context

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

If This Passes, Internet Freedom Is Gone – Not an Exaggeration

I’m sure everyone has been quite interested in the lengthy negotiations for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) – Oh, wait, they’ve been conducted in secret, with the public excluded, although entertainment industry folks and their lobbyists have been there to provide “input.”

Gennady Stolyarov II quotes Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged villain, Dr. Floyd Ferris, as follows:

There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted — and you create a nation of law-breakers — and then you cash in on guilt. [1]

This appears to be the position of President Barack Obama and his administration, as well as their co-conspirator negotiating partners. This is in line with the federal government’s trend, of the last 30 years or so, of criminalizing more and more normal activities of citizens as well as violations which were formerly civil matters, such as copyrights.

ACTA is wrong in so many ways, whatever good intentions it ever had are completely overshadowed by its evil dark side, and it will have dire consequences for many, intended or not, if it is allowed to stand. Some of its awful features, as to process and content are listed below.

Stolyarov describes it thusly:

It threatens to undo the accomplishments of the great Internet revolution and to thrust humankind back to a time when individuals had no public voice and no countervailing power against politically privileged mercantilist institutions. ACTA tramples on essential rights that have achieved even mainstream recognition: innocence until one is proven guilty, due process, personal privacy, and fair use of published content. Moreover, because of its designation as a trade agreement, ACTA could be imposed on the people of the United States by the president, without even a vote of Congress. [2]

This proposed treaty reinforces the perception that Barack Obama has strong disdain and disrespect for the U.S. Constitution and freedom for American citizens.

Secret Negotiations
The negotiating process has been secret, and an early draft was leaked (available here),and an official preliminary draft was finally released on demand of European authorities (available here).

Freedom of Information Act requests for information were denied on “national security” grounds. [3]

David Bollier at On the Commons, also notes

Obama declared, 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 efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Yet here we have the White House Office of U.S. Trade Representative declaring that the terms of the proposed IP treaty are essentially a state secret and that backchannel policymaking, insulated from any public scrutiny, is fine, just fine. [4]

So, if we didn’t already know, Obama’s transparency promise was and is some kind of bad joke.

Provisions Highlights, or more properly, Lowlights

Styled as a “trade agreement,” this monstrosity does not require legislation.

Further,

[T]he institutional issues around ACTA remain a huge concern. This is explicitly an attempt to circumvent WIPO [World Intellectual Property Organization] and the more open, transparent, and inclusive international process. The implications are very significant for all countries as this undermines the ability for many countries to have their concerns heard. Instead, many will face demands to comply with a treaty from which they were completely excluded during the negotiation process. [5]

American University Washington College of Law has published a document summarizing the bad features of ACTA, and the document carries numerous endorsements by members of parliaments of EU and negotiating countries, numerous academics and organizations. An excerpt of its excellent summary follows:


FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
ACTA would authorize or encourage private and government enforcement measures that would:
curtail enjoyment of fundamental rights and liberties, including domestic and internationally protected human rights to health, privacy and the protection of personal data, free expression, education, cultural participation, and right to a fair legal process, including fair trial and presumptions of innocence.

THE INTERNET

ACTA would
• Encourage internet service providers to police the activities of internet users by holding internet providers responsible for the actions of subscribers, conditioning safe harbors on adopting policing policies, and by requiring parties to encourage cooperation between service providers and rights holders;
• Encourage this surveillance, and the potential for punitive disconnections by private actors, without adequate court oversight or due process;
• Globalize 'anti-circumvention' provisions which threaten innovation, competition, free (freedom-respecting) software, open access business models, interoperability, the enjoyment of user rights, and user choice…. [6]

The document also lists serious problems of possible prevention of access to medicines due to travel in international commerce through countries in which certain medicines are prohibited. [7]

If put in place, ACTA would subject innocent citizens to search, seizure of goods, and possible criminal prosecution. They would be presumed guilty until proven innocent.

ACTA strongly encourages “graduated response” such as “three strikes” for removal from the internet of anyone who receives complaints about copyrighted material. Not proven instances, mind you – simply complaints. Also the treaty would place upon internet service providers the responsibility of policing the web for copyright violators. At present, ISP’s enjoy a “safe harbor” status that removes from them this responsibility.

The following videos, the second from, of all places, Russia Today, help explain the ACTA plan:





Who Wants ACTA?
Who would want all this? Other than governments (such as Obama’s) who are enamored of worldwide Big Brother-type control: Among others, entertainment industry organizations such as RIAA and MPAA, and large content providers such as Time Warner and various politically-connected others. Wikileaks has information on this and suggests as follows:

Who is really behind ACTA? Follow the money:

Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA)
Top four campaign contributions for 2006:
Time Warner $21,000
News Corp $15,000
Sony Corp of America $14,000
Walt Disney Co $13,550
Top two Industries:
TV/Movies/Music $181,050
Lawyers/Law Firms $114,200

Other politicians listed also show significant contributions from IP industries:

[Others listed are Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA), Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).] [8]

Conclusion
Probably few people outside the entertainment and internet world have heard much about ACTA. I hadn’t, until an article about it showed up in my email, Mises Daily, from Mises.org. Strong efforts have been made to keep it secret. The serious issues connected with ACTA make it imperative that American citizens who don’t want to lose important freedoms contact their senators. This is one of the sneakiest things yet attempted, but it’s right in line with President Obama’s habit of secrecy about issues affecting our lives.


[1] Quoted by Gennady Stolyarov II, “ACTA: The War on Progress, Freedom, and Human Civilization,” 08/03/2010, Mises.org.


[2] Stolyarov, see [1]

[3] David Bollier, “Et tu, Obama? Open Government Suffers Another Blow,” 03/12/2009, On the Commons.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Michael Geist, “ACTA Draft Text Released: (Nearly) Same As It Ever Was,” 04/51/2010, Michael Geist.


[6] American University Washington College of Law, “Text of Urgent ACTA Communique – English,” 06/23/2010, American University Washington College of Law.


[7] Ibid.

[8] Wikileaks, “Proposed US ACTA plurilateral intellectual property trade agreement (2007), Release Date May 22, 2008, Summary,” Wikileaks.


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2 comments:

The Conservative Leftist said...

Thumbs up for this post. Politicians need to realize that just because our Founders didn't conceive of things like the internet and thus specifically protect them from undue government interference doesn't mean that our elected officials can restrict our freedom to use them. The internet is integrated into Americans' lives -we do our shopping, social networking, news gathering, etc. on the internet - in ways that make it obvious that our personal liberties extend into the internet world.

MickeyWhite said...

Marsha Blackburn Voted FOR:
Omnibus Appropriations, Special Education, Global AIDS Initiative, Job Training, Unemployment Benefits, Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations, Agriculture Appropriations, FY2004 Foreign Operations Appropriations, U.S.-Singapore Trade, U.S.-Chile Trade, Supplemental Spending for Iraq & Afghanistan, Flood Insurance Reauthorization , Prescription Drug Benefit, Child Nutrition Programs, Surface Transportation, Job Training and Worker Services, Agriculture Appropriations, Foreign Aid, Debt Limit Increase, Fiscal 2005 Omnibus Appropriations, Vocational/Technical Training, Supplemental Appropriations, UN “Reforms.” Patriot Act Reauthorization, CAFTA, Katrina Hurricane-relief Appropriations, Head Start Funding, Line-item Rescission, Oman Trade Agreement, Military Tribunals, Electronic Surveillance, Head Start Funding, COPS Funding, Funding the REAL ID Act (National ID), Foreign Intelligence Surveillance, Thought Crimes “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, Peru Free Trade Agreement, Economic Stimulus, Farm Bill (Veto Override), Warrantless Searches, Employee Verification Program, Body Imaging Screening, Patriot Act extention.

Marsha Blackburn Voted AGAINST:
Ban on UN Contributions, eliminate Millennium Challenge Account, WTO Withdrawal, UN Dues Decrease, Defunding the NAIS, Iran Military Operations defunding Iraq Troop Withdrawal, congress authorization of Iran Military Operations, Withdrawing U.S. Soldiers from Afghanistan.

Marsha Blackburn is my Congressman.
See her unconstitutional votes at :
http://mickeywhite.blogspot.com/2009/09/tn-congressman-marsha-blackburn-votes.html
Mickey