We received an amusing email over the weekend chiding us for never having covered ACTA -- the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Of course, we've actually written 247 articles that mention ACTA (yes, I just counted). It seems that among some folks who just joined the "worry about copyright legislation" bandwagon, they've just discovered ACTA as well. ACTA stories are quickly taking over the SOPA channel
on Reddit. I'm happy that more people are coming around to these issues, but they might want to take some time to actually read up on things before they start screaming. For example, someone there put together a White House petition to stop ACTA
, without even acknowledging that the US government already signed ACTA
back in September.
The petition also ignores the most obvious line of attack for the US's participation: the questions about whether or not ACTA really qualifies as an "executive agreement." Instead, it takes that as granted, ignoring (or, more likely, simply not knowing) that there are serious constitutional questions
about the claim that this is an executive agreement -- and that Senator Ron Wyden has already asked the White House to justify
the claims that it's an executive agreement, rather than a treaty. Also, it's worth noting that other countries, including the EU, have already claimed that ACTA is a binding treaty
, even as the US continues to deny that fact.
Either way, the EU failed to sign
at the official signing ceremony (along with Mexico and Switzerland), claiming that it still had to get some legal ducks in a row. A legal review within the EU found that ACTA is terribly vague
and wide open to interpretation, such that some of it may violate other directives -- which would be a pretty big problem. But rather than fix anything, it appears the EU (under great pressure from the US) is looking to go ahead with ACTA. We noted last month that an EU Council took a step forward in supporting ACTA, but did so by hiding it
in an unrelated agriculture and fisheries meeting.
And, now, reports are spreading about how the Polish government is set to agree that the EU should sign onto ACTA
, later this week. There are still more steps before the EU officially does sign ACTA, but the effort in Poland is definitely a step in that direction.
What's interesting to me, however, is how the SOPA/PIPA fight really has energized folks into fighting all sorts of efforts to encroach the internet with expanded copyright law and copyright enforcement efforts. Despite some of the hyperbole, ACTA is not SOPA. It's certainly bad -- though, massively watered down from what it was originally. But it's not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination. ACTA should not be approved, and there are significant legal questions in the US as to whether or not it really can be approved in the manner it was -- but either way, it's nice to see more people waking up to the serious problems with the ever expanding copyright law efforts -- pushed by the same folks who supported SOPA/PIPA.
And... it appears that these protests are already having at least some impact. Polish politicians are meeting ahead of the planned meeting
"to review their stance on copyright protection policies." If the widespread online outrage about ACTA can actually lead countries to pushing back against this agreement, which is pretty much signed, sealed and delivered, it would be yet another sign of the growing power of online protests (though, some folks may ask where were you back when lots of people were arguing against ACTA, before
it was signed by most participating countries).