EU Legal Review Agrees With US: ACTA Dreadfully Written; Wide Open To Interpretation

from the this-is-not-a-good-thing dept

Earlier this year, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) did a legal review of ACTA to see if it conformed with existing US law. While the USTR tried to keep the report buried, it eventually came out -- and basically said that ACTA was drafted in a dreadfully confusing and opaque way. The issue? It's not even clear if US law conforms to ACTA, because ACTA can be interpreted in many different ways -- some of which suggest the US is in compliance, and some of which say we're not.

The EU Parliament's legal service recently conducted a similar review and came to an identical conclusion: ACTA may or may not be legal... depending on how you interpret it.

This should be seen as a massive problem. When you're crafting a giant international agreement that is binding on various countries (and, yes, the US pretends it's not binding, but the other signers insist it is binding, meaning under international law, they likely can hold the US to a claim that it's binding), the fact that it's so vague that what is and what is not legal under it is totally wide open to interpretation means you've drafted a really bad agreement that shouldn't be approved. In the meantime, any country signing such a document should be ashamed of itself, because it doesn't even know what it's bound itself to.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    xenomancer (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 3:07am

    Politics and the internet

    At least they are finally here with us in the internet age: they aren't reading the agreements before clicking "ok," just like the rest of us. Now they just need to start watching porn while in session. It would definitely make channels like C-SPAN more interesting. After all, that's what the internet is for.

     

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      The eejit (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 3:40am

      Re: Politics and the internet

      Didn't that happen in multiple signatory states before? I know it happened in NZ.

       

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        xenomancer (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 5:48am

        Re: Re: Politics and the internet

        But... but... but... we didn't have instant action replay with commentary, sponsors, and three idiots parroting two polar opinions and a non-opinion for four hours beforehand.


        Oh... wait... shit.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 6:07am

        Re: Re: Politics and the internet

        "I know it happened in NZ"

        Yup. And in Australia. Our bureaucrats are either sleepwalking or there is some devious plan afoot. History suggests that they do not do devious at all well.

         

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          The eejit (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 12:18pm

          Re: Re: Re: Politics and the internet

          To be fair, Aussies are mostly descended from crooks, blackguards and scoundrels. The bureaucratic kind are about a subtle as a sledgehammer to the crotch, and about ten times more painful.

           

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    Leander (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 3:16am

    Carte Blanche

    Well, there's the carte blanche (or the little tale about how they can sue anyone for everything) the entertainment industry always wanted. Let's just hope ACTA gets shot down.

     

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    btrussell (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 4:11am

    ".. depending on how you interpret it."

    What does it say in English? :)

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 9:42am

      Re:

      It says "major corporations own everything and can pass whatever laws they want, and actual human beings get whatever the major corporations decide to allow them. And fuck you."

       

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    Ninja (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 4:12am

    Finally. I do hope ACTA gets shot down. With the amount of problems it's having I can see it happening (US congress is kinda angry with the fact the Govt rushed it bypassing them so, yea, pride is hurt).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 5:10am

    ACTA uses Confusion....It's SUPER-Effective

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 5:28am

    But Mike, vague wording is just what's needed for the ACTA treaty to pass!

    After all, it shifts responsibility to judges, so if you're a politician who voted for the treaty, and judges do something that your voters don't like when ruling on ACTA then you can just attack the judges for being activists, and promise to replace them with strict constructionists when they retire. It works real well for raising money from the anti-abortion crowd in the USA.

     

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    MrWilson, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 6:08am

    Don't worry, The companies whose lobbyists wrote ACTA are perfectly willing to interpret it for you...in any way that benefits them.

     

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      nasch (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 7:27am

      Re:

      Don't worry, The companies whose lobbyists wrote ACTA are perfectly willing to interpret it for you...in any way that benefits them.

      Worse than that, they'll interpret it one way to get it passed, and another way after it's law.

       

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    Bengie, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 6:27am

    If they get ACTA

    I say we get to make our own new law. If you are in a position of power, being a jerk is criminal. Three strikes and you lose all your money.

    And all cases involving someone being accused of being a jerk must have a jury.

     

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    Thomas (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 6:46am

    Legality..

    never bothers lobbyists, Congressmen, the White House, or most of the federal agencies. They will do as they damn well please.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 7:37am

    Almost every law written in the US could be illegal, if you interpret it a certain way. Many US laws have been found to be in whole or in part illegal.

    Does that mean they should stop writing laws? Perhaps just stop trying? This is the conclusion you seem to suggest, and it just doesn't make sense.

     

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      WysiWyg (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 7:44am

      Re:

      Care to give us some examples?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 8:53am

        Re: Re:

        You only have to go look at any law "struck down as unconstitutional" to find laws that could (and were) interpreted as illegal.

        You can look at the original COPA law, which was enjoined from enforcement in 1998, and found finally in 2007 to be "facially in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution" (thanks wikipedia).

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_Online_Protection_Act

        There are tons of laws written that don't past the test of the courts. You can look at many of the immigration laws on the State level, handgun restrictions, and things like that.

        The legality of almost any law depends on how it is read, and how it is interpreted by enforcement and then the courts.

         

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      Any Mouse (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 7:46am

      Re:

      Does that mean they should stop writing laws? Perhaps just stop trying? This is the conclusion you seem to suggest, and it just doesn't make sense.

      How you come to that conclusion without massive misinterpretation is beyond my understanding. Care to explain to the class where he intimated that we should stop writing laws?

       

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        WysiWyg (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 7:49am

        Re: Re:

        Actually, since he did write that a law that can be interpreted in various ways, especially if some of them are illegal, is bad it follows that we should discourage the politicians from making such laws.

        ACs logic does work, if you assume that all laws, or at least a big portion of them, can be interpreted as being illegal. That's the big hole in the argument.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 9:02am

      Re:

      Does that mean they should stop writing laws?


      Yes. A thousand times yes. I want all new laws to have sunset clauses so that they don't have time to write new laws because they'll always be debating the old ones.

       

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      John Fenderson (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 9:45am

      Re:

      Does that mean they should stop writing laws? Perhaps just stop trying? This is the conclusion you seem to suggest, and it just doesn't make sense.


      No, it means that they should stop writing corrupt laws.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 11:32am

      Re:

      Or perhaps they should try to address these concerns *beforehand.* But don't let that interrupt your silly false dilemma fallacy.

       

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      Christopher (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 1:21pm

      Re:

      Yes, it does mean that they should stop writing laws, OR get an opinion from legal experts before enshrining anything into law.

       

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    WysiWyg (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 7:46am

    Oh, they know!

    You're acting like the politicians doesn't know this, when they are not just aware of it - it's intentional!

    You see it as binding us, a politician sees it as a way of making any laws they want afterwards, they can just say that we already promised.

    Especially the EU-countries are very good at using EU as a shield against backlashes for the laws they make.

     

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    gorehound (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 8:45am

    ACTA truly is the ANTI-CONSUMER Trading Act.It does not conform to our written laws.It should be taken to court and shut down.It goes against our laws.
    Just another sign of big money corruption and Washington.
    PROTEST CORRUPTION and do some OCCUPY !!

     

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    Allomancer (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 12:32pm

    I'm shocked and appalled

    What? Are you trying to say that a treaty that was drafted in secret without any legal oversight from the signatory countries is legally questionable? How could that be? It's preposterous!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2011 @ 12:33pm

    "ACTA Dreadfully Written; Wide Open To Interpretation"

    Could you not say that about the Constitution of the US also?

     

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      Christopher (profile), Oct 21st, 2011 @ 1:13pm

      Re:

      The problem isn't with the Constitution of the United States, considering that it was written 200+ years ago.

      The problem is that it didn't have an easy way to update it while banning changing some portions of it (such as the Bill of Rights) to take into account the exponential increase in technology.

       

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