White House's Weak Response To Petition Against ACTA

from the bad-petition,-bad-result dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about two different petitions on the White House's official petition platform concerning ACTA. We noted that one of the petitions was very oddly worded, talking about getting the US to "end ACTA." It's description was a bit confused, and didn't seem to understand the process or history behind ACTA. There was a second one that was focused more accurately on asking the White House to submit ACTA to the Senate for ratification, as required by the Constitution. Unfortunately, only the first, oddly worded, petition reached the official vote threshold to require a response from the White House. The other petition has since been disappeared from the site.

However, while it took a while, the White House has finally responded, in the form of Miriam Sapiro, who is the deputy US Trade Rep -- i.e., second in command to USTR Ron Kirk. So, it's no surprise that her response is the usual mix of misleading to downright questionable statements:
As you may know, the proliferation of counterfeit and pirated goods poses considerable challenges for legitimate trade and economic development. Protecting intellectual property rights helps to further public policies that are designed to protect the public. ACTA will help authorities, for example, protect against the threat posed by potentially unsafe counterfeit goods that can pose a significant risk to public health, such as toothpaste with dangerous amounts of diethylene glycol (a chemical used in brake fluid), auto parts of unknown quality or suspect semiconductors used in life-saving defibrillators.
Yup. Start out with the usual misleading crap of focusing solely on "health" risks from physical counterfeiting... totally ignoring that physical counterfeiting is an entirely different issue than copyright infringement of digital goods. But never bother to separate out or differentiate, even though the bulk of ACTA is targeted at dealing with digital infringement. As ACTA supporters have done since day one, they figure that if they just keep talking about counterfeit physical goods causing harm enough, perhaps they can avoid addressing the real issues -- which is exactly what Sapiro does here. Weak.
ACTA specifically recognizes the importance of free expression, due process, and privacy. It is the first -- and only -- international intellectual property rights agreement to provide explicitly that enforcement of intellectual property rights in the context of the Internet "shall be implemented in a manner that … preserves fundamental principles such as freedom of expression, fair process, and privacy." No provision in ACTA requires parties to disclose information "contrary to … laws protecting privacy rights." This includes the protections already in place in U.S. law.
This, unfortunately, is because of the oddly worded original petition, that focused on "privacy," rather than the many other more serious problems with ACTA. It gave Sapiro an out by pretending that ACTA deals with the "problems" people are raising, while avoiding addressing any of the real problems, which aren't really about privacy.
In addition to the United States, approximately thirty countries have signed the Agreement, including Australia, Canada, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Morocco, Singapore, and a majority of European Union member states, as well as the EU itself.
This is a nice bit of trickery. While many countries did "sign" the agreement, signing and ratifying are completely different issues, and as we've seen, the EU Parliament is hopefully very, very close to rejecting ACTA. That Sapiro doesn't even acknowledge this true state of things is really rather incredible. As with her boss, she seems to be actively insulting the intelligence of people who are concerned about ACTA, by pretending (completely falsely) that there is worldwide acceptance of ACTA already.
We believe that ACTA will help protect the intellectual property that is essential to American jobs in innovative and creative industries. At the same time, ACTA recognizes the importance of online privacy, freedom of expression and due process, and calls on signatories to protect these values in the course of complying with the Agreement.
[citation needed]

This whole response is pretty insulting. Yes, part of the problem was the poorly worded original petition, but the fact that Sapiro doesn't address any of the actual concerns of ACTA, and then pretends everything's just peachy with the agreement (and totally ignores the major constitutional question about how the Executive Branch can sign a treaty covering powers only granted to the Congress without Congressional approval), suggests a White House and USTR that still thinks it's pulling a fast one over on the American public.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Jeff (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 10:16am

    Death of ACTA

    ACTA will die a slow, bureaucratic death after endlessly being diplomatically discussed. By focusing our vigilance on this 'alliance' we are being redirected away from the larger battlefront of CISPA and various other efforts currently being drafted in countries around the world (at the behest of Hollywood).

    The price of freedom is eternal vigilance - applies to virtual worlds as well...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 10:22am

    Not surprised in the least.

    Did anybody expect real change? Reform? Justice?

    I'm just going to leave this right here. It's about 15 minutes long, "One propaganda-drenched society critiques another, as North Korean filmmakers present the U.S. citizenry as brainwashed “slaves” to illusions created by corporations."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Cory of PC (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 10:23am

    Petition

    This is kinda giving me the idea about making my own petition about having the US change its official anthem to something else. Honestly with the way things are going, there's no need to be using "land of the free" any more. It's all to protect IP, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 10:26am

    What is the end game?

    I'm always curious what people both in our government and in the various industries who are affected by piracy think about how they would like to see everything end up. I can only think that they are either too stupid to understand how the internet and networking actually works or they know how it works and want to destroy the internet. Either stupid or malicious, and probably both.
    Imagine if they actually got what they wanted. You would have to positively identify yourself any time you wanted to go online. And your access can be blocked immediately if anyone makes a claim against you. No user generated content can be put on the internet, because it would just be too dangerous. Someone uploads something that infringes on someone else's work and the whole site can be instantly taken down. If that happens three times it's blocked from the internet forever. Even comments like this won't be possible because they might get techdirt shut down if someone cut and pastes something from somewhere else or even links to it.
    Of course it would never get that far. There are still powerful interests that rely on the internet too much to allow it, and because of that, all these new laws and treaties are just pointless. All they do is make things harder for legitimate users, and do nothing to stop piracy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Atkray (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 10:29am

    Not weak

    I didn't find the response weak, I found it downright insulting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Jason, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 10:33am

    New Petition

    Well, I guess its time for a new White House petition on ACTA.

    This one should be: "ACTA is a hideously flawed trade agreement, scrap it now!!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Angel (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 10:35am

    Anybody who hasn't figured out that the petition website is a joke, will probably never figure it out. It's there for show and nothing more.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 10:39am

    Re: New Petition

    The sad thing about it is that now that there is a response to ACTA, they will claim to not need to write a new one again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 10:44am

    Re:

    So it's like those prop twons/cities/buildings that communist regimes build?

    /In soviet America, petition signs you!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:01am

    New anthem: America The Beautiful!

    O beautiful for copyrights,
    For bogus trademark claims,
    For courtroom trolling patent fights
    Above the lawsuit pains!
    America! America! Intellectual Property!
    And congress friends on whom we spend
    For copyrights that won't end!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:01am

    i'm curious as to who appoints people like Ron Kirk and Miriam Sapiro to these positions and who pays the salary? if it comes from public funds, are they not accountable for lying through their teeth to their employers (us)?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Kiwini, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:02am

    Same manure, different day

    "suggests a White House and USTR that still thinks it's pulling a fast one over on the American public."



    Do tell.....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:05am

    Re:

    A petition website is not a joke. It gives the government early intelligence on what battles the lowly common folk might engage in.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:06am

    Re: New anthem: America The Beautiful!

    Alternate third line:

    For patent trolls and courtroom fights

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:08am

    Re: What is the end game?

    If the people driving these sorts of laws got what they wanted. Internet would become the next TV.

    They push "content".
    You pay.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    kirby (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:16am

    Thanks Mike

    Thanks Mike for stating what I was feeling. The response that was given was basically the entire reason that the petition was created.

    If you have any easy methods of supporting our digital friends over in Europe, please let me know. Since my own country is not listening to the people, I'll have to support those over seas that can still put an end to this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:27am

    ACTA recognizes the importance of online privacy, freedom of expression and due process, and calls on signatories to protect these values in the course of complying with the Agreement.

    Remember, kids, calling on signatories to play nice with vague and overreaching laws and treaties is just as good as writing laws and treaties that can't be abused.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    ahow628 (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:30am

    Whitewashing

    Anytime someone starts an explanation with "As you may know..." it is obvious that they are going to waffle and try to cover stuff up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Jonathan, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re:

    aka "honeypot"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:33am

    Re:

    Agreed. I'd feel different if there were a single case of government behavior changing in regard to any of these petitions. Every one, I've heard of, has just resulted in a patronizing letter explaining why they don't care what the people think.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Jonathan, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:35am

    Re:

    Employers? You silly rube. Public office is merely the internship for their positions of private influence afterward.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Angel (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re:

    Any petition that requests meaningful change get's an empty response and nothing comes of it. It's a farce meant to placate "We the people". I know I went through and signed quite a few of those petitions and everyone seems to have received the same kind of response.

    "We hear you but we can't do anything about it"

    "we hear you but we won't do anything about it"

    "we hear you but we aren't going to change it"

    That's about the gist of every response to every petition.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Angel (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Oh wait I almost forgot the other response

    "The president agrees with you but he can't do anything about it"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 12:12pm

    Neat, a second time something I've submitted got put up on this site. The first was the judge was with "textbook" corruption.

    Maybe someone else submitted it too, but yeah, got this in my email over the weekend and I was quite disgusted with it too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 12:13pm

    A good article overall, but I do not agree that the bulk of ACTA is targeted at dealing with digital infringement.

    The bulk is about enforcement measures against physical counterfeiting. However a lot of controversy about the agreement is caused by the bundling of Digital + Analog copying; Trademarks, patents + copyright and the weird combination of substancial demands for certain laws and a lot of strange halfway provisions begging politicians to cooperate with eachother and their industries.
    What is killing ACTA politically is not so much the problems with internet restrictions. It is the outlandish word-choices in the agreement making it impossible to predict how it will be interpreted by court, the bundlings and to some extend the lack of common european laws about damages, where many countries have to look a couple extra times before ratifying.

    The internet-problems has a lot to do with the bad wording and how you interpret it in context of the rest of the agreement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Petition

    Oh say can you sing,
    Of the glory of corps
    with our copyrights long
    and our truths held so short.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 12:49pm

    Pop quiz

    Which sentence better describe liberty, freedom or rights?

    A)Government tells its people what they think WE should be more cencerned about

    or

    B)We tell governments what we feel WE should be more concerned about

    Answers on a postcard

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Rottweiler, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 1:31pm

    Good news!

    The DEVE committee voted in favor of rejecting ACTA.

    "The Development committee advises to reject ACTA. The committee adopted the amendments to the draft report and then adopted the amended opinion with 19 in favour, 1 against, 3 abstentions."

    http://acta.ffii.org/?p=1394

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    Aaron (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 1:52pm

    "Protecting intellectual property rights"
    Allow me to de-propagandize that for you:
    "Enforcing immoral propriety restrictions"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Parody of Ron Kirk, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 1:52pm

    I understand the public concerns about this petition but the public must also understand my concerns. Obama received campaign contributions from Hollywood and in order for me to keep my job I must parrot the Hollywood meme. Plus, I am seeking a high paying position with a Hollywood lobbying firm, one that requires little work and effort and thinking or competence, and getting these laws passed will help me get that job. Plus I need to protect Hollywood's business model if these lobbying firms are to stay and business and be profitable so that I can keep my easy high paying job and get paid well. I need to buy more nice cars and several more mansions and I want everything money can buy. Why would you want to deprive me of this? That's kinda mean, isn't it?

    You, the public, are determined to ruin this great opportunity for me. Please be more considerate to your fellow politicians by not ruining all my efforts to get these laws passed and benefit from them through revolving door favors.

    Who knows, one day I may even run for an elected position and I need the campaign contributions to win and passing these laws will help me get more campaign contributions. Then I can get an even nicer revolving door favor.

    So you see, there is good reason to pass these laws. Your fellow politicians benefit from them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Irving, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 2:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Of what use, exactly, is the president then?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    Wendy Cockcroft (profile), Jun 4th, 2012 @ 3:28pm

    Rebuttal

    The Administration has recognized previously the importance of protecting an open and innovative Internet in the context of our response to other petitions regarding the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Since ACTA is quite different than SOPA and PIPA, we’ve decided to provide an ACTA-specific response.


    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. Every one of the major departments, from law enforcement to the military to the USTR has been toeing the line on this. Your statements about protecting an open and innovative Internet are contradicted by your actions on the world stage. That's why the treaty negotiations are restricted to the corporate stakeholders, isn't it? Eh? We know what you're up to and we don't approve!


    ACTA is an international trade agreement that establishes high standards for intellectual property enforcement. The Agreement provides for: (1) enhanced international cooperation; (2) the promotion of sound enforcement practices; and (3) a legal framework for better enforcement.


    Please explain the use of unfamiliar, unrecognised terms like "fair process." "Sound enforcement practices?" What about "innocent until proven guilty?" What legal framework? 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.


    Do I detect the stench of bovine waste? Trading standards and public health and safety laws are more applicable to this and you know it.


    ACTA will help authorities, for example, protect against the threat posed by potentially unsafe counterfeit goods that can pose a significant risk to public health, such as toothpaste with dangerous amounts of diethylene glycol (a chemical used in brake fluid), auto parts of unknown quality or suspect semiconductors used in life-saving defibrillators.


    Case in point. FDA on your side of the pond, equivalent agencies on ours. One of these is the Health and Safety Executive. They're the ones who deal with this kind of thing.


    ACTA specifically recognizes the importance of free expression, due process, and privacy.


    ROFL! Please explain all the website and domain seizures, all of which have been done sans due process. Kim Dotcom. JotForm. Dajaz1. The list goes on. I expect to get a load of guff about how none of those were connected to ACTA. That's true, but given your current attitude to your trading partners, I have no faith at all in any of your assurances.


    It is the first — and only — international intellectual property rights agreement to provide explicitly that enforcement of intellectual property rights in the context of the Internet “shall be implemented in a manner that … preserves fundamental principles such as freedom of expression, fair process, and privacy.”


    Then why not use internationally recognised terms? Why conflate trademarks with patents and copyright when all are treated differently under law, even in the United States? And how much freedom of expression when your websites is shut down and your domain seized, only to be returned sans explanation with a terse comment about collateral damage? You're like Godzilla, a dangerous monster that lumbers about smashing all in its path and oblivious to the damage you're doing until you stub your toes.


    No provision in ACTA requires parties to disclose information “contrary to … laws protecting privacy rights.” This includes the protections already in place in U.S. law.


    Which you're in the process of undermining "because people are making private information public anyway." Don't get me started on #CISPA , your #mass #surveillance bill. I'm glad that's languishing on a shelf somewhere. It should never have passed Congress in the first place.


    In addition to the United States, approximately thirty countries have signed the Agreement, including Australia, Canada, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Morocco, Singapore, and a majority of European Union member states, as well as the EU itself.


    Well they ain't gonna ratify it, we'll see to that. The four main committees have rejected it already so your last gasp is INTA. We've already got their email addresses and a protest is planned for June 19th. I'd like to have an explanation from yourselves about why our complaints have been characterised as "undemocratic" and "cyberbullying."


    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.


    At the same time, ACTA recognizes the importance of online privacy, freedom of expression and due process, and calls on signatories to protect these values in the course of complying with the Agreement.


    Complying with the Agreements means throwing privacy out of the window because there's no way of "preventing infringement" except by monitoring internet usage.

    Surveillance has a chilling effect on freedom of speech and I resent the way we activists have been mischaracterised, ignored, and condescended to. In what way does referring to us as "cyberbullies" and "undemocratic" respect out freedom of expression?

    As I pointed out, there is no way to protect these values if we comply with the Agreement, so the only option is to throw it out. Get a clue.

    ~ The internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Jun 4th, 2012 @ 8:44pm

    All they want...

    "ACTA will help authorities"

    The only part of it the administration cares about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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