Darrell Issa Posts Text Of 'Unconstitutional' ACTA For Open Feedback; Something USTR Never Did

from the well-look-at-that dept

We’ve been really impressed (though we can see where it needs improvements in its next version) with the “Madison” platform that Rep. Darrell Issa put up to allow for open feedback and comments concerning the OPEN Act. And it appears he’s not done using that platform, either. He’s now posted the text of ACTA to the same platform to ask for feedback and comments. It comes with an initial statement showing that he’s very concerned about the nature of ACTA (I believe this is the first time Issa has spoken out against ACTA:

Stopping SOPA and PIPA was a historic victory for digital citizens, but ACTA potentially poses a similar threat to the global Internet community. While the agreement’s stated goal of strengthening intellectual property rights is one all should support, it does so by undermining individual privacy rights and by empowering an unaccountable enforcement bureaucracy. And just like SOPA and PIPA, ACTA was crafted without input from citizens and key stakeholders in a secretive, closed-door process.

Worse, ACTA appears to be an unconstitutional power grab started by President George W. Bush and completed by President Barack Obama – despite the White House’s January 14 criticism of legislative solutions that harm the Internet and erode individual rights. The Constitution gives Congress the power to pass intellectual property legislation – like SOPA and PIPA – and gives the Senate the power to ratify treaties. But the Obama Administration maintains that ACTA is not even a treaty, justifying the exclusion of both American citizens and their elected representatives. It is a practice Vice President Joe Biden decried as a U.S. Senator.

Closed doesn’t cut it. We opened up ACTA in Madison so you can sign up, speak out and collaborate to build a better “treaty.”

For all of the USTR’s ridiculous claims of unprecedented transparency, why couldn’t it have done something like this before ACTA was “finalized”? The answer is that there’s no reason at all. Instead, the USTR released the “final” draft of ACTA as a done deal, and any public comment was meaningless, because the document was not open for any additional changes.

Which raises another unfortunate point. The Obama administration has already signed ACTA. Hopefully this means that Congress is actually going to get serious about challenging the administration on its claimed authority to sign and ratify ACTA without Congress’ approval. Until now, the only Congressional official who had questioned that right publicly was Senator Wyden — though, we’ve heard of a few others who have sent pointed questions to the administration about its claims. With Issa going public and directly questioning this attempt to deny Congress the right to review ACTA — despite the Executive branch not having the right to make copyright or patent law — perhaps Congress will finally step up and make it clear that it won’t let the President simply ignore Congress’ mandate over both IP law and international treaties.

Also, when do we get the Madison’ed version of TPP?

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Comments on “Darrell Issa Posts Text Of 'Unconstitutional' ACTA For Open Feedback; Something USTR Never Did”

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Jay (profile) says:

why couldn't it have done something like this before ACTA was "finalized"?

I don’t know if Darrell Issa is to be “forgiven” by opening up the ACTA.

The problem that I see is that he’s taken a few steps forward and about 20 steps back. But I’m very surprised that he decided to take this step. It’s what the people have actually been wanting to do. All they want is a more dynamic government that actually listens to them. And yet, the government has been trying to ignore them while making legislation that affects their lives.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hopefully this means that Congress is actually going to get serious about challenging the administration on its claimed authority to sign and ratify ACTA without Congress’ approval.

State of Emergency, president can do whatever the heck he wants. I’m surprised he’s bothering to run for reelection; why not just make up something about terrorists and skip it?

Anonymous Coward says:

according to Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade, and i quote, “ACTA is an enforcement treaty”

that being the case, in exactly which countries is it a ‘treaty’ and in which countries is it ‘an agreement’? i suppose the answer is when it suits to be a treaty, it will be a treaty, when it doesn’t suit, it wont be. nothing like being open and definitive, and this is nothing like being open and definitive!

Beta (profile) says:

“Hopefully this means that Congress is actually going to get serious about challenging the administration on its claimed authority to sign and ratify ACTA without Congress’ approval.”

Why should they? Traditionally this would be considered a point too subtle to be safe; a member of Congress who fought this wouldn’t win much favor with the voters, but would lose a lot with the backers, and one who kept silent would lose nothing and quietly gain a lot. And both parties seem to like to expand the power of the president. Just look at the president’s power to wage war; we haven’t actually declared a war since 1942. Congress doesn’t mind letting that power slide into the hands of the president, because it lets them tailor speeches to the mood of the day without actually committing to anything.

If we can remember this until the next election, and vote for those who speak up over those who don’t, that might just start to change.

Anonymous Coward says:

“While the agreement?s stated goal of strengthening intellectual property rights is one all should support”
If you talk like that, then the terrorists (aka big media) have already won!

Would someone inform Rep. Darrell Issa that many people would disagree that intellectual property rights should be strengthened? There’s been books written on the subject, and finding someone who believes this isn’t that hard (and as a bonus, they often tell you why too!).

Saying that everyone should support something just because you do, is just dumb.

Anonymous Coward says:

Which raises another unfortunate point. The Obama administration has already signed ACTA.

Everyone else in the world to sign it is calling it by what it is, which is a trade treaty. The only country not calling it a trade treaty is the US. The one and only reason to do that is to get around having the congress critters having a say in it, which might mean it won’t pass unless the copyright industries get up off some money to bribe it’s way through.

I do hope congress does call the POTUS on this little evasion

techies (profile) says:

Save the Internet

These debates are so very important right now. The controversy over copyright law and censorship are going to become more intense and important in our everyday lives. Senator Orrin Hatch suggested over a decade ago that the Government be able to blow up computers without due process if you can imagine that. But they did it with the NDAA- why not with the Internet? http://www.dethronehatch.com/orrin-hatch-is-no-friend-of-the-internet/

TtfnJohn (profile) says:


If, of course, all of the EU countries ratify the treaty/agreement which is looking kinda shaky.

Of course, the interests behind it will simply try another way to get what they want if ACTA and TPP fail.

That may sound pessimistic but it more than accurately portrays those interests and the ends they’ll go to to get what they want — civil society and the rights of citizens be damned.

Anonymous Coward says:


But that site needs registration, and I’m an anonymous coward! If I could go register, I wouldn’t be anonymous (and therefore not a coward). My very existence hangs in the balance!

Also, I’m not a US citizen so I’m not sure they’d even listen to me (even if their politics greatly affect me). I would be happy if someone else brought it up though.

John Thacker (profile) says:

Huh? It never "passed." It never went before Congress.

President Obama just signed it and said that it was an “executive agreement,” not a treaty, so that it didn’t need to go before Congress to become law. (The explanation is that it doesn’t conflict with any existing US law nor require new law to give the Executive Branch the power to implement it– however, it would effectively hamstring Congress from changing the law in a less IP-friendly way inconsistent with the agreement.)

Congress was never involved in the process at all. So I’m not sure what you’re asking for.

John Thacker (profile) says:


What are you talking about? Darrell Issa has had nothing to do with ACTA. (And he was at the forefront of stopping SOPA.) ACTA was started by George W. Bush and signed by Barack Obama without Issa being part of the process at all.

Where is this “about 20 steps back” you refer to? Are you talking about something entirely different of his that you dislike? (Such as the Research Works Act? I would understand disliking that.)

John Thacker (profile) says:


Basically “executive agreement” is a US term for “implementing this doesn’t require Congress to pay any laws, as it doesn’t violate new law or require new powers for the Presidency, so I don’t need Congress.”

In reality, signing up for an agreement makes it really hard for Congress to then change the laws in such a way as to no longer be consistent with the agreement, so it really should require Congressional approval.

John Thacker (profile) says:


The USA no longer declares war after we renamed the War Department. But in some cases there have been clear votes authorizing military force, which is close enough (such as in Iraq both times). Other times, not so much (such as in Libya and Bosnia.)

Your basic point about the politics is correct, though. The big reason why a stink doesn’t get made is that politicians assume that people don’t really care about this; not enough to vote on the basis of it, anyway. Though the SOPA/PIPA protests definitely turned some heads.

Jay (profile) says:


To become partisan in this post, Issa was pretty big on women’s issues and that’s been an embarrassment. I know that this is particularly about technology so I would like to keep this point focused on the other problems I see in technology.

One aspect that I can’t quite understand is why he supported the Research Works Act if he were so strongly opposed to SOPA and PIPA. It makes me more critical of his stances in regards to technology issues. While he may be trying to put out more information and bring the US government to the modern era, I just don’t see him as particularly favorable besides the opposition to legislation on technology.

I still have a strong feeling he’s pretty corrupt and I might be wrong, but it concerns me greatly that so many people believe he’s a good guy when he’s had some pretty interesting stances in other areas.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

state of emergency

YES, this:
i bet not 1 in 100 fat, stupid amerikans know that we are *still* under a formal ‘state of emergency’ since nine one one…
not only that, but *supposedly* it is *supposed* to be formally renewed sumpin’ like every six months, *AND* they (the executive branch) are *supposed* to give a detailed list of *why* we are in a state of emergency…
they are not honoring even those minimal conditions, yet, here we are, in a ‘state of emergency’…
i guess that means the fascist empire is still in the process of emerging…
like a caterpillar to a butterfly, our empire will be the most beautiful evil empire evah ! ! !
art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Anonymous Coward says:


He supported the RWA for the very simple reason that it had nothing at all to do with any of the issues associated with SOPA and PIPA. As between his proposal and that of another member of the House, his actually makes sense given its very limited scope; i.e., the USG would not be authorized to go around and interfere with existing private contracts. This is hardly an earth shattering proposition.

BeeAitch (profile) says:

“While the agreement?s stated goal of strengthening intellectual property rights is one all should support…”

WRONG. Full stop.

Every statement following this quote is nothing but pure justification FOR ACTA.

IP=Imaginary Property, therefore not real. Call it Intellectual Property all you want, it is still IMAGINARY (constructed from ideas): i.e. constructed; not real.

Cowardly Anonymous says:


An executive agreement may not contain any provisions that do not fall entirely under the scope of the President’s authority. Since the agreement does contain provisions having to do with copyright and patent law and the Executive branch does not hold the right to make copyright or patent law, we instead have a treaty which requires the approval of Congress.

The fact that ACTA “doesn’t change anything” argues against a straw man, and you fell for it.

John Thacker (profile) says:


You’re not using “straw man” correctly. Arguing against a straw man” is arguing against an argument that your opponent is not actually making.

I was presenting the argument of the current and previous Administration. I agree 100% with what you say about the argument; it is bogus. I didn’t at all fall for it. I disagree with a terrible argument, but a terrible argument that the Obama Administration is actually making. That’s not arguing against a straw man.

You need to improve your reading comprehension.

Anonymous Coward says:


I am afraid it is you who have fallen for the arguments of lay persons unfamiliar with Con Law who have been essentially positing that if something deals with “authors” then the Executive Branch is foreclosed from taking any action without the approval of the Congress.

Their arguments stand on even shakier grounds in that few, if any, have actually read and analyzed the provisions of the ACTA document. For example, how many have considered that any party who wishes to do so may withdraw at its election without recourse by the other parties? How many have considered that the agreement is devoid of any enforcement and sanction powers as against a signatory?

While there are some law professionals who may disagree, I view ACTA as little more than a “Gentlemen’s Agreement”, a Memorandum of Understanding if you will.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Rep. Issa shows his true colors

This just shows what I’ve been saying all along: Darrell Issa is not our friend. His OPEN act may be a step back from SOPA, but it’s still a step forward in the ever-advancing march of copyright abuse, and he admits it:

“the agreement?s stated goal of strengthening intellectual property rights is one all should support”

That shows us exactly where he stands, in his own words: he’s for cranking the ratchet higher.

Yes, we need a new copyright law. But the new law we need needs to repeal and reverse the DMCA, doing away with no-due-process takedowns and criminalizing DRM technology, not building further on the DMCA’s abusive foundation. And Issa clearly isn’t even thinking in that direction.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hey Mike, you have to coin the phrase “The Limbaugh effect” I know this is a little unrelated to the topic, but Rep. Issa was the board member who refused Fluke to testify before the congressional hearing on contraception by religious organization. The funny thing is, here was an issue were people were kinda? siding with the conservative view that maybe we were crossing the line on this ?Obama Care?, so the Democrats let Fluke speak at their own hearing. No big deal, and fat mouth Rush calls her a slut and wants to see videos of her sexapades. What a douche, now people who were siding or were on the fence of this issue have suddenly picked a side all due to a totally irrelevant comment (Rush), by a really irrelevant person (Fluke). So there you have the ?Limbaugh Effect? it?s all yours.

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