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Author Topic: Why all the secrecy about A.C.T.A?  (Read 2008 times)
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Date Registered:June 11, 2001, 06:26:00 PM
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« on: April 20, 2009, 12:21:50 PM »


"April 7, 2009, 10:53 AM —  IDG News Service —

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has released some new details about an anticounterfeiting trade agreement that has been discussed in secret among the U.S., Japan, the European Union and other countries since 2006.

The six-page summary of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement ( http://www.ustr.gov/assets/Document_Librar...le917_15546.pdf ) negotiations provides little specific detail about the current state of negotiations, but the release represents a change in policy at the USTR, which had argued in the past that information on the trade pact was "properly classified in the interest of national security."

The summary of the negotiations, released Monday, says that the countries involved have been discussing how to deal with criminal enforcement of each others' copyright laws. The countries involved have discussed the "scale of infringement necessary to quality for criminal sanctions," as well as the authority of countries to order searches and seizures of goods suspected of infringing intellectual-property laws. The summary does not detail the current state of negotiations in those areas.

The trade pact negotiations have also talked about border measures that countries should take against infringing products and about how to enforce intellectual-property rights over the Internet.

Public Knowledge, a consumer rights group and one of three organizations suing USTR over its refusal to release information on ACTA, praised USTR for releasing the summary, but said more information is needed.

"The dissemination of the six-page summary will help to some degree to clarify what is being discussed," Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge's president, said in a statement. "At the same time, however, this release can only be seen as a first step forward. It would have been helpful had the USTR elaborated more clearly the goals the United States wants to pursue in the treaty and what proposals our government has made, particularly in the area of intellectual property rights in a digital environment."

Since last June, Public Knowledge, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for information about ACTA. USTR had argued that most of the information about the trade pact was classified while releasing just 159 pages of information on the agreement in January. Public Knowledge and EFF said then that USTR was withholding more than 1,300 pages of information.

When President Barack Obama took office in January, he directed U.S. agencies to be more transparent to the public. In early March, USTR denied an FOIA request from KEI, an intellectual-property research and advocacy group, citing national security concerns. But later that month, the agency pledged to undertake a long-term review of its transparency.

The release of the summary "reflects the Obama administration's commitment to transparency," USTR said in a statement. Other countries helped USTR draft the summary, the agency said.

"We look forward to taking more steps to engage with the public in our efforts to make trade work for American families," newly appointed U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement.

The goal of ACTA is to negotiate a "state-of-the art agreement to combat counterfeiting and piracy," according to USTR. Among the nations participating in negotiations are Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland.

The U.S. and Japan began discussing an intellectual-property trade agreement in 2006, with other countries joining discussions later that year, according to the ACTA summary. Formal negotiations began in June 2008."

http://www.eff.org/issues/acta - (From that link): "The Discussion Paper leaves open how Internet Service Providers should be encouraged to identify and remove allegedly infringing material from the Internet. However the same industry rightsholder groups that support the creation of ACTA have also called for mandatory network-level filtering by Internet Service Providers and for Internet Service Providers to terminate citizens' Internet connection on repeat allegation of copyright infringement (the "Three Strikes" /Graduated Response), so there is reason to believe that ACTA will seek to increase intermediary liability and require these things of Internet Service Providers. While mandating copyright filtering by ISPs will not be technologically effective because it can be defeated by use of encryption, efforts to introduce network level filtering will likely involve deep packet inspection of citizens' Internet communications. This raises considerable concerns for citizens' civil liberties and privacy rights, and the future of Internet innovation."

I totally suggest you use the contact mechanism here: http://action.eff.org/site/Advocacy?id=383 to contact your reps and have them demand answers (and some of that non-existent "transparency" that we hear so much about). Pete

"When fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis
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« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2009, 02:25:45 PM »


"May 6th, 2009
Government Still Blocking Information on Secret IP Enforcement Treaty
Broken Promises from the Obama Administration Keep Americans in the Dark About ACTA

Washington, D.C. - Two public interest groups today called on the government to stop blocking the release of information about a secret intellectual property trade agreement with broad implications for privacy and innovation around the world.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Knowledge said that the April 30th release of 36 pages of material by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) was the second time the government had the opportunity to provide some public insight into the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), but declined to do so. More than a thousand pages of material about ACTA are still being withheld, despite the Obama administration's promises to run a more open government.

"We are very disappointed with the USTR's decision to continue to withhold these documents," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "The president promised an open and transparent administration. But in this case and others we are litigating at EFF, we've found that the new guidelines liberalizing implementation of the Freedom of Information Act haven't changed a thing."

EFF and Public Knowledge filed suit in September of 2008, demanding that background documents on ACTA be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Initially, USTR released 159 pages of information about ACTA and withheld more than 1300 additional pages, claiming they implicate national security or reveal the USTR's "deliberative process." After reconsidering the release under the Obama administration's new transparency policies, the USTR disclosed the additional pages last week, most of which contain no substantive information.

However, one of the documents implies that treaty negotiators are zeroing in on Internet regulation. A discussion of the challenges for the pact includes "the speed and ease of digital reproductions" and "the growing importance of the Internet as a means of distribution."

Other publicly available information shows that the treaty could establish far-reaching customs regulations over Internet traffic in the guise of anti-counterfeiting measures. Additionally, multi-national IP industry companies have publicly requested that ISPs be required to engage in filtering of their customers' Internet communications for potentially copyright-infringing material, force mandatory disclosure of personal information about alleged copyright infringers, and adopt "Three Strikes" policies requiring ISPs to automatically terminate customers' Internet access upon a repeat allegation of copyright infringement.

"What we've seen tends to confirm that the substance of ACTA remains a grave concern," said Public Knowledge Staff Attorney Sherwin Siy. "The agreement increasingly looks like an attempt by Hollywood and the content industries to perform an end-run around national legislatures and public international forums to advance an aggressive, radical change in the way that copyright and trademark laws are enforced."

"The USTR's official summary of the process, released last month, recognized the lack of transparency so far while doing nothing to broaden stakeholder input or engage public debate," said International Affairs Director Eddan Katz. "The radical proposals being considered under the Internet provisions deserve a more transparent process with greater public participation."

Litigation in the case will now continue, with USTR asking U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer to uphold its decision to conceal virtually all of the information that EFF and PK seek concerning the ACTA negotiations.

For the documents released so far:
http://www.eff.org/fn/directory/6661/329 "

Have you responded to that action alert I posted above? Because I can tell you, right now and without any doubt whatsoever, that if that bill is over  a thousand pages, then there's not a single legislator out there who will read it before voting on it.

I can similarly guarantee that if they're hiding the contents of this thing that it will be a privacy/Constitutional nightmare when finally presented.

ACT on this: https://secure.eff.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=di...tion&id=420 Pete


"When fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis
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« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2009, 01:16:53 AM »


"A sweeping international treaty to regulate how knowledge and creativity may flow on the Internet is now being negotiated. Haven’t heard of it? Funny thing, that’s exactly what the backers of the treaty want. The film, music, publishing and information industries don’t want a public debate about the issues or an open debate in Congress. So they have been working hand-in-glove with the U.S. Trade Representative to move U.S. policymaking offshore and throw a dark cloak of secrecy around everything. The next stop: draconian penalties for anyone who is accused of violating copyright law.

Details about the treaty are murky. But the latest draft, according to a leak summarized on the Boing Boing website, would require:

    That Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have to proactively police copyright on user-contributed material. This means that it will be impossible to run a service like Flickr or YouTube or Blogger, since hiring enough lawyers to ensure that the mountain of material uploaded every second isn’t infringing will exceed any hope of profitability.

    That ISPs have to cut off the Internet access of accused copyright infringers or face liability. This means that your entire family could be denied to the internet — and hence to civic participation, health information, education, communications, and their means of earning a living — if one member is accused of copyright infringement, without access to a trial or counsel.

    That the whole world must adopt US-style “notice-and-takedown” rules that require ISPs to remove any material that is accused — again, without evidence or trial — of infringing copyright. This has proved a disaster in the U.S. and other countries, where it provides an easy means of censoring material, just by accusing it of infringing copyright.

    Mandatory prohibitions on breaking DRM [Digital Rights Management systems], even if doing so for a lawful purpose (e.g., to make a work available to disabled people; for archival preservation; because you own the copyrighted work that is locked up with DRM).

Who would have guessed that such nasty stuff was embedded in a treaty called the “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)”? That title was presumably meant to reassure people that it’s a non-controversial measure. But fighting counterfeits seems to be just the cover story. The real goal is to win a backdoor expansion of copyright law, much stronger enforcement powers and greater corporate control of the Internet — all without having to go through that pesky process known as democracy.

If the first subterfuge was the misleading title, the second subterfuge was to call ACTA a “trade agreement” rather than a multilateral intellectual property treaty. A trade agreement can be implemented by the Executive Branch on its own, and does not require congressional approval. An intellectual property treaty would require a congressional vote.

This could turn out to be a fatal legal maneuver, Eddan Katz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out in a recent blog post, because an executive agreement like ACTA must “color within the lines of U.S. law.” Yet the U.S. Trade Representative has been quoted as saying that the treatment will “stick as closely to U.S. law as possible.”

Oh, that’s reassuring. As Katz asks: “How can the USTR negotiate an international agreement that sets new global IP enforcement norms requiring changes to U.S. law and policy as an Executive Agreement, without the knowledge or involvement of Congress?” (For more on this point, see Katz’s law review article in the Yale Journal of International Law .)

The bad faith only gets worse. Beyond the misleading title and backdoor legal maneuvers is Very Deep Secrecy. Or more accurately, selective Very Deep Secrecy. Key Washington insiders and corporate players have been granted full access to the draft treaty — but we the little people have been excluded. Wanna read the draft? You can’t. The official rationale is that such disclosures would jeopardize national security. Seriously.

When I blogged about the so-called ACTA treaty — Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement — in March 2009, Public Knowledge and others were trying to open up the treaty process through Freedom of Information Act requests and public pressure. As criticism mounted, the U.S. Trade Representative in September came up with an ingenious “solution” — let a handful of public-interest advocates read the ACTA draft — but only after signing a a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that prohibits them from publicly discussing it.

NDAs are a standard tool among Silicon Valley tech companies to prevent proprietary secrets from circulating. Notwithstanding President Obama’s other laudable initiatives in open government, this NDA approach to citizen participation is worthy of Dick Cheney or George W. Bush.

Wait, there’s more! Even this form of restricted access is selectively granted. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) decided to pick and choose who would be invited to sign an NDA and thus be allowed to read the document (but not talk about it publicly).

This Orwellian farce prompted James Love of Knowledge Ecology International — a long-time critic of ACTA and the USTR — to prepare a petition that has garnered thousands of signatories. The petition reads in part:

The opportunity to see the ACTA documents under the NDA was offered to a large number of business interests, but very few public interest or consumer groups, and there were no opportunities for academic experts or the general public to review the documents.

USTR officials have indicated that this policy of access by invitation and NDA fully addresses the legitimate demands for more transparency of the negotiation, and it is being considered as a model for the future.

We are opposed to this approach because it creates a small special class of citizens who have rights superior to the majority of the population, and because it gives the government too much discretion in deciding who can monitor and criticize its operations. We have no confidence in this new approach.

Some of the people who have signed such NDAs are grateful for the chance to have had special access to some information, but they also feel constrained by the inability to discuss the contents of the documents, and are confident that nothing they have seen constitutes information that in any way would prejudice the national security of the United States if it were in fact disclosed.

In our opinion, the ACTA negotiations would not exist without the support and engagement of the U.S. government, and they are too important to continue under such questionable practices.

The only rationale for keeping the proposed ACTA text from the public is to suppress criticism and critical thinking about the norms that are being proposed. It is Orwellian and an insult to our intelligence to claim that the secrecy of the ACTA text has anything to do with national security concerns, as the term is commonly understood.

A secret process of arbitrary access, conditioned upon signing non-disclosure agreements to block public debate, does not enhance openness and transparency, and does not inspire respect for the norms that will eventually emerge.

[The full petition can be read here. ]

Public Knowledge also prepared a petition as well, which has been signed by the American Association of Law Libraries, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Future of Music Coalition, Internet Archive and Sunlight Foundation, among others.

Even some Senators are getting upset about the USTR’s high-handed approach to democracy. Senators Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders have sent a letter to the USTR asking that the ACTA text be made public:

ACTA involves dozens if not hundreds of substantive aspects of intellectual property law and its enforcement, including those that have nothing to do with counterfeiting. . . . There are concerns about the impact of ACTA on the privacy and civil rights of individuals, on the supply of products under the first sale doctrine, on the markets for legitimate generic medicines, and on consumers and innovation in general.

The Motion Picture Association of America has no qualms about the secrecy. In its own letter to the USTR, the MPAA dismissed such concerns with a wave of the hand: “Outcries on the lack of transparency in the ACTA negotiations are a distraction. They distract from the substance and the ambition of the ACTA…”

You heard right: democratic process is a “distraction.” At a time when the U.S. is trying to rehabilitate its international image and show others how democracy works, the ACTA treaty is not a very good advertisement for the “American way.”

At this point, it’s unclear how the whole misbegotten mess will play out, but there is no doubt that the key players, including the U.S. Government, are trying to use international law to neuter the Internet, subvert the innovation and participation that open platforms enable, and violate people’s privacy and due process rights — all of this without meaningful public dialogue.

I don’t think the USTR or President Obama really want to go there. It would ignite a political and cultural explosion. If they are too frightened to have an open, honest debate at the draft proposal stage — it they are too frightened of the citizenry — imagine the political blowback that will occur if the treaty actually becomes enforceable law. Let’s face it: A public reckoning will have to occur at some point, and the sooner the USTR backs away from the ledge and opens up its deliberations, the better it will be for it, President Obama and the rest of us.

For more about ACTA, see analyses by Public Knowledge, Michael Geist of University of Ottawa, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation."


People - You really NEED to contact your Senators about this - and the E.F.F makes that extremely easy to do:


OR, you can c&p their letter into a word program on your computer and FAX it to them (find your Senators' contact info here: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_info...enators_cfm.cfm and use either your OWN FAX machine, or this FREE FAX service - americanvoice.com


"When fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis
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