Stealth International Internet Control Imosed on US by ‘Executive Agreement’? ACTA

Kaye Beach

Jan, 30, 2012

ACTA stands for the  Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)

ACTA is an agreement between several nations (including the US) signed Oct 1, 2011 t for the purpose of establishing international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement. ACTA is designed to establish international legal standards for the purpose of curtailing the sale of counterfeit goods and copyright infringement on the internet.

Read ACTA

Apparently here are many problems with ACTA including the lack of transparency involved in developing and negotiating the treaty  or “executive agreement” as it is being considered since a treaty in the US must get 2/3 approval from the US Senate.  President Obama has bypassed that process and went ahead and signed ACTA without any approval.

Many individuals and groups believe that ACTA is worse than SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act bill that was recently shelved due to massive outrage due to censorship on the internet that SOPA would have enabled.  In fact, thousands of Europeans have have recently engaged in protest against their governments participation in this treaty.

What do they know that we don’t?

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted Jan 27, 2012

We Have Every Right to Be Furious About ACTA

If there’s one thing that encapsulates what’s wrong with the way government functions today, ACTA is it. You wouldn’t know it from the name, but the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is a plurilateral agreement designed to broaden and extend existing intellectual property (IP) enforcement laws to the Internet. While it was only negotiated between a few countries,1 it has global consequences. First because it will create new rules for the Internet, and second, because its standards will be applied to other countries through the U.S.’s annual Special 301 process. Negotiated in secret, ACTA bypassed checks and balances of existing international IP norm-setting bodies, without any meaningful input from national parliaments, policymakers, or their citizens. Worse still, the agreement creates a new global institution, an “ACTA Committee” to oversee its implementation and interpretation that will be made up of unelected members with no legal obligation to be transparent in their proceedings. Both in substance and in process, ACTA embodies an outdated top-down, arbitrary approach to government that is out of step with modern notions of participatory democracy.

The EU and 22 of its 27 member states signed ACTA yesterday in Tokyo. This news is neither momentous nor surprising. This is but the latest step in more than three years of non-transparent negotiations. In December, the Council of the European Union—one of the European Union’s two legislative bodies, composed of executives from the 27 EU member states—adopted ACTA during a completely unrelated meeting on agriculture and fisheries. Of course, this is not the end of the story in the EU. For ACTA to be adopted as EU law, the European Parliament has to vote on whether to accept or reject it.

In the U.S., there are growing concerns about the constitutionality of negotiating ACTA as a “sole executive agreement”.  This is not just a semantic argument. If ACTA were categorized as a treaty, it would have to be ratified by the Senate. But the USTR and the Administration have consistently maintained that ACTA is a sole executive agreement negotiated under the President’s power. On that theory, it does not need Congressional approval and thus ACTA already became binding on the US government when Ambassador Ron Kirk signed it last October.

But leading US Constitutional Scholars disagree. Professors Jack Goldsmith and Larry Lessig, questioned the Constitutionality of the executive agreement classification in 2010:

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 intellectual property.2

(And by the way, we agree [pdf].)

Senator Ron Wyden has been asking these questions for years, first demanding an explanation from USTR ambassador Ron Kirk, President Obama, and now the administration’s top international law expert Harold Koh. The distinction between executive agreement and treaty should not be lost on this administration: as a Senator, Vice President Joe Biden used the same argument to require the Bush administration to seek Senate approval for an arms reduction agreement.

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