Tuesday, 5 June 2012

ACTA On The Rocks: USTR Says We're Misinformed

The controversial plutilateral treaty ACTA is on the rocks, about to sink. One more committee, INTA, will vote on it, then it goes to the European Parliament to be voted upon. Even though Neelie Kroes of the European Commission says it's dead, we're not popping the champagne till it finally breaks up and sinks.

The committees had to scrutinise the treaty to ensure that it was compatible with European law and existing treaties. The Internet Freedom Movement used information from Rick Falkvinge's blog and EDRI to get hold of the email addresses of all the MEPs so we could to a bit of lobbying of our own. Why should USTR and their corporate cronies have all the fun? Result: Internet 4, ACTA 0.

Needless to say, we're delighted but since the USTR is refusing to distance itself from ACTA and it's insisting that we're misinformed, the fight is still on because it's a dead cert that they're working feverishly away behind the scenes to get it through Parliament. They still think it's a slam dunk because all the signatory nations have signed the treaty, it has only to be ratified. Keeping it open by referring it to the European Court of  Justice could give them enough leeway to sneak in the ratification process later on. By getting it rejected in a Parliamentary vote, we kill it off for good.

When that's done it is essential to get our governments to start the process of considering intellectual property rights (IPR) law reform. When the consultation papers come out we need to make helpful comments or just repeat what the Pirate Party says about it. The idea is, we make the idea of further ratcheting toxic and therefore untenable. End of problem. We CAN do it.

The INTA vote is scheduled for the week of the 2nd-5th July. Keep an eye on this blog, the Internet Freedom Movement, and Rick Falkvinge's blog for more information. Be ready to pounce on the email list Rick has prepared and hammer the MEPs with this message: "ACTA is dangerous and against the interests of all Europeans because it conflates trademarks, patents, and copyright on purpose in order to justify excessive enforcement of controls against generic drugs and on the internet. We don't want it so don't ratify it. Vote no!"

USTR's response

A petition was set up on We The People, a section on the White House's blog where people can set up petitions and the US government can shrug and say, "That's nice, dear, but we can't do much about it."

Anyway, USTR's Deputy Miriam Sapiro responded to the petition in such patronizing terms that, incensed, I felt honour-bound to post a rebuttal on both Techdirt and on Google Plus. She basically ignored the real issues and assumed we were a) stupid and b) hadn't read the treaty text. I ripped her a new one. Here are the highlights:

The Administration has recognized previously the importance of protecting an open and innovative Internet

The administration said nothing either way till it was pretty much over. Since then, it has continued to ply its trade by means of #IPR (intellectual property rights) expansion and enforcement.

ACTA... provides for: (1) enhanced international cooperation; (2) the promotion of sound enforcement practices; and (3) a legal framework for better enforcement.

ACTA subverts standard legal practice and is basically a licence to troll.

As you may know, the proliferation of counterfeit and pirated goods poses considerable challenges for legitimate trade and economic development.

No, +The White House, that would be you, via #IPR trolling. Explain why "evergreening" is acceptable as a trade practice. You can't, can you?

Protecting intellectual property rights helps to further public policies that are designed to protect the public.

Trading standards and public health and safety laws are more applicable to this and you know it.

We believe that ACTA will help protect the intellectual property that is essential to American jobs in innovative and creative industries.

Actually, it's the means for exporting American jobs overseas to manufacturers who work under licence to the corporations that own the rights to the patent, copyright, and trademark monopolies for the goods they then import into the US. The only jobs to be had are in registrations, enforcement, and surveillance.


Since I tagged the White House's page, someone is going to read that, and I really hope it's someone from high up. I've got about 500 followers and every time something I write gets shared, my reach increases. I don't know anyone who actually supports ACTA and my failure of an MEP is currently ignoring me. Quel surprise! Since the Labour Party is committed to copyright expansion and enforcement, they're no friends of mine. That said, I've had some encouraging responses from the Liberal Party and feel compelled to give Sir Graham Watson, MEP, a shout out for keeping me in the loop.

Of course it goes without saying that the Pirate Party have been leading the fight on this and it was Christian Engstrom and Amelia Andersdotter who won the day in the committees. That's why I support them. Their contention that IPR is about creating, expanding, and enforcing government-sponsored monopolies is correct and only a complete reform will help our economies. There is no other way.

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