Senator Wyden Demands ACTA Details Be Revealed

from the good-for-him dept

Late last year, we noted that Senator Bernie Sanders had questioned why ACTA negotiations were being kept secret well beyond normal — even to the point of being classified as a state secret. The USTR gave the usual non-answer in response, and it appears that other Senators are beginning to worry about this as well. Senator Ron Wyden is now demanding that the USTR confirm or deny the various leaks about ACTA that have raised so many concerns.


Wyden also pointed out that “objectives behind the negotiations still remain inadequately clear to the American public.” I actually don’t know that this is true. The objectives seem abundantly clear from what’s been leaked: to put up artificial barriers to help prop up an industry unwilling to adapt to changing times. The letter itself (pdf) includes 11 questions for the USTR including asking for assurances that ACTA would neither force changes on US IP laws nor would it constrain Congress from adjusting such laws in the future.

Update: Looks like politicians around the world are starting to wake up and question all this ACTA secrecy.

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Comments on “Senator Wyden Demands ACTA Details Be Revealed”

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31 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Ah, you can see them begin to get it...

Finally, it appears that a combination of factors is FINALLY starting to put the fear of God into some of our “representatives”. The factors as I see them are:

1. Nat’l attention in new media is highlighting the pros and cons of current and speculative IP laws as never before. This combined with the new and genuine interest of the younger generations has created an interest in what many previously considered the “dry” topic of IP law.

2. Combined with the above is the widespread reach of internet, people of voting age are more informed than ever about the things their government and industry are doing.

3. For some reason I have yet to be able to identify, young people are more involved in the voting process than perhaps any time since the Vietnam War era.

What this all culminates in is the very real possibility that an interested public will vote out their local and congressional reps if they’re in office when something harmful is done. This doesn’t appear to apply to the Presidency so much (likely because the eventual candidates for that job are choreographed by some higher powers so that neither choice ever really serves the people), but at the local level we still have a voice.

Some of the members of that political body are finally starting to understand that we can take away their jobs, and it looks like some of them are starting to get scared….

Onnala (profile) says:

Oregon

Wyden has been an oregon senator for a very long time. No term limits here, and has been doing a good job. So he probable feels very safe in going after the ATCA treaty as even if some of the content industry doesn’t like it, there is little that they can do.

Most people in Oregon are impressed that he supported our states assisted suicide law even though he didn’t personally support it. Most of the reason we still have it is because of his opposition to both of the previous administrations attempts to destroy Oregon law.

Long story short, the guy has a lot of political capital to spend in his home state.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Oregon

“He’ll probably pull something from Wikipedia’s butt.”

But there really shouldn’t be anything to pull. He and anyone else can argue up and down that enacting ACTA will save jobs and not enacting it will cost them, but there is no conscionable (sp?) reason to deprive the public from being able to see what is essentially a commerce treaty.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Oregon

Look, it’s a missed point:

It’s a question of risk / reward. You don’t see the Junior Senator from California or the like asking about it, because for them there is more of the table. For the Senator from Oregon, he risks what, pissing off the one movie product that comes to the state each year?

Basically, he can ask the question because he has nothing to lose by people being upset about him asking the question. It isn’t about the RESULTS of the treaty, it’s about stepping on people’s toes.

It’s politics, and the question from the wrong person would be very impolitic indeed.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Oregon

I’m still not sold on how this will cost the loss of a single, solitary job in *any* state. He’s not asking to change *anything* on the trade agreement, he just thinks we should see the damn thing.

What *if* the senator from California asked this question? Will the movie studios move out of Hollywood, to Nevada?

Haapi says:

It's a TREATY

… so the Senate will have to ratify it. Surely, everyone will have to see it by then. I can see things having a “smoke-filled-room” phase, but the ACTA stuff has gone on absurdly long.

Somebody big isn’t quite getting what they want, or is finding that they are barely holding onto what they have.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: It's a TREATY

It’s a TREATY… so the Senate will have to ratify it.

Sadly, no, this will apparently not require any involvement from Congress, according to the EFF:

“The Office of the USTR has chosen to negotiate ACTA as a sole executive agreement. Because of a loophole in democratic accountability on sole executive agreements, the Office of the USTR can sign off on an IP Enforcement agenda without any formal congressional involvement at all.”

More information at http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/11/stopping-acta-juggernaut

Anonymous Coward says:

I like his 1st question

“I understand that […] no agreement […] would require a […] change to US law. However, are you also reviewing negotiating proposals to ensure that no agreement would constrain the ability of the Congress to reform our domestic IPR laws?”

That’s a key point for me. I don’t want our trade representatives going around the globe locking us into agreements that include controversial parts of our IP law (e.g. anti-circumvention, inducement liability, eternal [minus a day] copyright, etc). That only makes it that much harder for congress to one day fix those things.

Anonymous Coward says:

To clarify, ACTA is not a “treaty” but an “Executive Agreement”. As a consequence it does not require Congressional approval.

HOWEVER, as an Executive Agreement is does not carry the force and effect of law as would be the case with a treaty ratified by the Senate. Treaties and statutes do carry the full force and effect of law, but only as long as both conform to the strictures of the US Constitution.

For those who may believe that Congress can have its hands tied by this type of agreement, their belief is wrong as a matter of law. Even Congress does not have the constitutional power to enact legislation forbidding future Congresses from changing it however they please.

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