We — meaning the users of a free, unfettered Internet — only recently “defeated” (temporarily) SOPA / PIPA, two bills purportedly designed to halt Internet piracy that many feared would lead to Web censorship. While acknowledged as a victory by many, there is already another threat on the horizon: ACTA.
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ACTA stands for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. It’s an agreement coming out of the E.U., but to be clear, it’s not new. However, what’s worse for those in the U.S., the USTR (Office of the United States Trade Representative) and the Administration have said the agreement is NOT a treaty, which would require ratification by the Senate (at least two-thirds), but instead an executive agreement negotiated under the power of the President.
Since USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk signed it last October, that would mean that a decision on ACTA coming out of the E.U would be binding to the U.S.
On Thursday, the EU and 22 of its 27 member states signed ACTA, in Tokyo. This is not the end of the story in the E.U., as for ACTA to be adopted as E.U. law, the European Parliament has to vote on it, and accept — or reject — it.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which was instrumental in relegating SOPA and PIPA to the trash bins of the House and Senate (at least for now), is again key. The EFF notes that:
“ACTA has several features that raise significant potential concerns for consumers’ privacy and civil liberties for innovation and the free flow of information on the Internet legitimate commerce and for developing countries’ ability to choose policy options that best suit their domestic priorities and level of economic development.”
The EFF also cited constitutional scholars who argue that “the president has no independent constitutional authority over intellectual property or communications policy.”
Also voicing its opposition is the loosely-knit hacker group Anonymous. Anonymous has already hacked Polish government Web sites in retribution for its support of ACTA, which did manage to rattle Polish officials enough for them to state they would review their stance on the agreement.
On Thursday, @AnonOps Tweeted, “Say NO to #ACTA. It is essential to spread awareness and get the word out on ACTA.”
It doesn’t stop there, however. Even key people involved in the agreement are protesting. On Friday, Kader Arif, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for ACTA, resigned over the issue. He said he had witnessed “never-before-seen maneuvers” by officials preparing the treaty.
“I condemn the whole process which led to the signature of this agreement: no consultation of the civil society, lack of transparency since the beginning of negotiations, repeated delays of the signature of the text without any explanation given, reject of Parliament’s recommendations as given in several resolutions of our assembly.”
If someone deeply involved in the very agreement resigns, with those sorts of comments, how are citizens who will be subject to such an agreement, one with far wider reach than either SOPA or PIPA, supposed to feel comfortable with it.
The EFF has urged opponents of ACTA to sign a petition on the White House Web site that calls on the administration to submit ACTA to Congress for a vote.
To be clear, that petition is on the White House’s “We the People” site. While a petition that reaches a certain level requires an official response, that response does not have to conform to any petition’s request(s).