If ACTA Is So Great, Where Are All The Supporters Extolling Its Virtues?

from the still-waiting dept

One of the striking features of the ACTA debate is the deafening silence from those who are in favor of it. Maybe that’s down to the SOPA effect: companies and organizations are frightened of being associated with such an unpopular idea. Of course, it could just be that even its most fervent supporters can’t really come up with any plausible justifications for it. That’s certainly the impression you get reading a rare attempt to raise the ACTA flag from the Institute for Policy Innovation, entitled “Acting Out on ACTA.”

It begins by focussing on potentially lethal counterfeits — fake drugs, fake brake linings and fake circuit breaker boxes. That conveniently ignores the fact that no one is against cracking down on such dangerous counterfeits, and that the main problems with ACTA concern its attempt to apply the same rules to digital infringement, where there are no safety issues to justify its harsh and disproportionate measures.

But leaving that aside, ACTA doesn’t actually tackle the problem of physical counterfeits, for reasons I’ve discussed before — the main one being that the nations where fakes tend to originate are not signatories to ACTA, and so won’t be bound by it. As for the countries that have signed up, the principal ones like the 27 European Union nations, Japan and the US already have stringent laws that enable counterfeits to be tackled, so ACTA won’t make any difference for them either. The only countries where ACTA might have some effect are places like Mexico, and sadly the issue there is not so much fake drugs coming into America as the problems caused by real ones.

Rather than offer any more reasons why ACTA is a good thing, the IPI article then changes direction, and begins a bizarre attack on widespread concerns about ACTA’s lack of transparency:

[Anti-IP activists] complain that ACTA was “negotiated in secret,” and protest that critics did not have access to negotiators. Rather than making substantive arguments against the actual text of the agreement, they attempt to kill it by condemning the process.

In fact, plenty of “substantive arguments” against ACTA have been provided, for example here, here and here, as well as these on Techdirt.

The IPI article goes on:

it’s disingenuous to argue that agreements between governments must be negotiated in public with opposition activists in the room, and it’s naïve for elected officials to fall for that argument. That’s not transparency—that’s paralysis. Treaties, defense compacts, and trade agreements have always been negotiated confidentially between governments.

But no one has argued that activists must be in the room. Instead, people simply want access to draft versions of the treaty as they are negotiated, plus the ability to make their views known to their representatives. That does not mean people are demanding the right to do that in the negotiating room itself — that’s plainly absurd — just a mechanism for providing feedback, perhaps by means of the Internet.

As to the point that treaties have “always been negotiated confidentially between governments”, that’s also not the case, as this article explains:

Ars Technica recently talked to Michael Geist, a legal scholar at the University of Ottawa, about this effort [to export restrictive American copyright laws abroad]. He told us that rather than making their arguments at the World Intellectual Property Organization, where they would be subject to serious public scrutiny, the US and other supporters of more restrictive copyright law have increasingly focused on pushing their agenda in alternative venues, such as pending trade deals, where negotiations are secret and critics are excluded.

So, far from being the norm, ACTA’s secrecy is a conscious attempt to avoid the scrutiny and consensual approach that characterizes WIPO, the traditional forum for multilateral agreements in this area.

The IPI article concludes:

ACTA should be judged on its merits, not on some false illegitimate-process charge created by opposition activists. And its merits are many.

It’s strange that an article that claims there are “many” merits of ACTA fails to mention them, and concentrates instead on attacking straw-men. But there’s something stranger still. According to the IPI’s donations:

IPI is studiously non-partisan, but we have a definite philosophical opposition to Big Government solutions that are almost always worse than the problem. Today, the threat from Big Government is greater than ever, and our work is more important than ever.

ACTA is the ultimate in Big Government solutions — in fact, it’s even bigger than Big Government, because it’s a supranational treaty that imposes an extra layer of obligations and bureacracy on governments, and hence their populations. So the key question is not: Why can’t the IPI tell us what those “many” merits of ACTA are? but: Why is it supporting it at all?

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Comments on “If ACTA Is So Great, Where Are All The Supporters Extolling Its Virtues?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Strawman argument.

There is almost never wide public support for laws such as this, especially in the internet era. Everyone is worried about losing their youtube or their twitter, and anything that can even be vaguely connected to them is “bad”.

Sort of like laws against speeding and parking. Few will come out in favor of them, but we do as a society need them.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Quantum Schrodinger

(here, have a troll-snack)

In fact, we need neither speeding nor parking laws; both exist as a means to extract additional revenue from the citizens thru unlawful additional fees/taxes without ever providing a provable benefit to society.

If you are claiming ACTA (etc) will be used to extract revenue from citizens thru extra-legal means without providing benefit, then we are in complete agreement.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Quantum Schrodinger

Actually, I do agree that we need speeding laws when in urban areas with pedestrian traffic. Low speeds allows for protection of pedestrians.

However, the speed law analogy falls flat when we are talking highways and interstates. Once we are on those roads where pedestrian traffic is nil, speed laws are nothing but revenue generators.

bubby says:

Re: Re: Re: Quantum Schrodinger

So you’d like to see people be able to go 100+ mph all the time, anytime, in an anarchic free-for-all on the highway, then? Well, that would make lane-changing and emergency stops more interesting, at least. Not to mention seeing all the tire treads flying off the semi trucks trying to maintain that speed. At that velocity, a tread hitting another car could be lethal if it happened to get high enough into the air. And can you imagine how many more pileups there might be when people don’t slow down for a traffic jam in time? There are a lot of bad drivers out there, do you really want them going this fast?

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Quantum Schrodinger

It is called a speed limit not a mandatory driving speed. People don’t have to drive 100mph…especially if you know your tires would fail. I know when I go 85mph I feel a little uneasy. For me I feel most comfortable driving between 75-80 mph. Some people are more comfortable driving at 55mph (that is why you still see some people on the interstate going that speed). What laws should punish is dangerous driving. I am sure one of the Andretti’s could drive pretty well at 100mph.

Torg (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Quantum Schrodinger

I wasn’t aware that speed limits took traffic jams into account. People slow down in traffic jams because they’re not as stupid as the monkeys you seem to think they are, not because a change in speed limit is transmitted to them and they feel compelled to slow down.

People drive at the speeds they’re comfortable driving at, so your assumption that no speed limit equates to everyone driving at over a hundred miles per hour even if their car isn’t designed for that is simply wrong. If cargo or bits of a car start regularly flying off of someone’s car at a certain speed, they’re not going to keep driving at that speed. If a car is fine at a high speed, there’s nothing to worry about when going at that speed, provided good visibility that comes with driving on an open highway in daylight.

I don’t know where you got the idea that the existence of bad drivers means everyone on the road is eligible for the Darwin Awards, but your misanthropy shouldn’t be a basis for legislation.

varagix says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Quantum Schrodinger

I suppose you’ve never heard of the german autobahn, then? No official, enforcable speed limits, just a general advisory that going above 130 km/h (about 81 mph) could be dangerous. Granted there are some exceptions (vehicles with trailers, construction zones, etc) but for the most part, there are no hard speed limits.


John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Quantum Schrodinger

Study after study shows that without speeds limits, drivers do not just drive around with pedal constantly pressed to the floor. Rather, they actually tend to drive at the maximum speed that is safe considering road, traffic, and weather conditions.

Not all of them, of course, but those that don’t are likely the same ones who ignore speed limits after all.

Imagine this — if speed limits were the except, not the norm, they would become more useful. There are sections of roads where there are hidden dangers and driving at the apparent safe speed is actually dangerous. Putting speed limits on just those sections would make the limits meaningful rather than arbitrary, and drivers would be much more likely to pay attention to them.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Quantum Schrodinger

I’m suspecting that you’ve really never driven on some freeways when the traffic is light to medium. “anarchic free-for-all” pretty much sums it up.

The tread off a big rig might, just might, make it through the safety glass of a windshield though I doubt the tread of most passenger cars would, even at 100 mph. And we do slow down when we come across a traffic jam, if, for no other reason the traffic ahead of us is already slowing down.

I’m more concerned about emergency vehicles at any speed off on the side of the road for whatever reason or flaggers than I am about things like tire tread anyway. I don’t want to hit THEM.

I’m also more concerned about the bad drivers who insist on traveling (well) under the flow of traffic around them in the passing lane(s) than a lot of other examples of poor driving I see out there.

From your attitude I’d not want to be on the same highway as you, particularly a winding mountain pass.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Quantum Schrodinger

“In fact, we need neither speeding nor parking laws; both exist as a means to extract additional revenue from the citizens thru unlawful additional fees/taxes without ever providing a provable benefit to society.”

You’ve obviously never tried to find a parking space in Manhattan…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:


In a working democracy, laws are enacted because the majority of the people find it desirable, even for speeding laws (for road safety). No everybody agrees with every law, and even more so if it directly seems to affect them negatively. But there a, or should be, no laws that the vast majority is against.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:


When your taxes go up (and they do) do you really think the majority of people wanted that? If you asked a majority of Americans if they wanted to pay another $1000 in tax this year, how many do you think would say yes? Yet, the government can (and often does) pass laws that have that effect, at least on some people.

Democracy doesn’t mean just passing popular laws. It means governing for all the people, even if the choices are less than palatable at times.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The some people is the thing there.

I happily pay my taxes, as do most of us; of course I would like them to be lower, but if it means no healthcare, no road maintenance, no public schools, etc., then I’ll happily pay them.

Yes, sometimes law that is passed is unpopular. But there is a big, big difference between passing a law that is less than palatable, but for the good of everyone in the end, and shoving aside all critics because ‘sometimes laws have to suck’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

However if you take your example to a non-trivial depth you’d see your flaw.

If the programs/obligations were based on predominately things that the populace was in favor of and the reasoning behind the additional expenditure was necessary then I do believe that the general electorate would be satisfied with the necessity.

The issue is, as a general rule, most people believe their tax money is wasted and misused and are subsequently resistant to giving more.

Why do you think people do silly things like quit a high paying job they hate for something they like that makes less total dollars? Or why there’s such a row between musician and authors and their labels or publishers.

Cost benefit is a pretty simple concept…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The issue I think is that the need isn’t always as easy to see. We often get bogged down in the details, and forget the bigger picture. We are, as people, more worried about the details of life, and that makes it hard to stop and look from a little further back.

If you stand too close to the Mona Lisa, you might see just a smudge of paint. If you stand too far, back, you see nothing. You have to adjust your distance to get the full effect.

Politicians are often faced with the problem of writing laws that, in the details, appear to be not what the people want. I don’t know about you, but I love to drive my car fast, I work on it to make sure I get maximum turbo boost, that everything is working just fine. I enjoy my car. Yet, that enjoyment goes directly against the speed limits, and more and more places are putting seriously large fines on excessive speed. That is for the benefit of the public as a whole, not me in particular. Keeping me down to something under the speed of sound makes the world a safer place.

It’s not popular with me, if you asked my opinion, I would “Montana” speed laws and enjoy myself. The greater good is in punishing me for risking other people’s lives by driving too quickly.

There is so much more to the situation, there is no black and white, no “instant democracy” that will ever working it out right. Government must worry about the few, those that suffer, and must find ways to make them live better, even if it costs the rest of us a bit. It’s not an easy thing, nor is it often that popular. It just needs to be done.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

When your taxes go up (and they do) do you really think the majority of people wanted that? If you asked a majority of Americans if they wanted to pay another $1000 in tax this year, how many do you think would say yes?

You can’t pose that question in isolation. True, if asked for an extra $1000 in exchange for nothing at all, nearly everyone will say no.

But if you ask people if they want their taxes increased in exchange for a particular thing that they want, they are rather likely to say yes.

It happens all the time. In my state, that’s how we get libraries, schools, roads, and all kinds of things people want. The tax levies are put up for popular vote, and the majority days yes, they want higher taxes.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Everyone is worried about losing their youtube or their twitter, and anything that can even be vaguely connected to them is “bad”.”

Everybody’s worried about losing access to sites they use for completely legal purposes, including exercising their constitutional rights. Your “side” has yet to come up with a law that will get rid of piracy, let alone do so without negatively affecting legal actions. Perhaps you’d like to try that, or at least trying the hundreds of alternative ways of doing business that would remove the incentive to pirate first, before trying to destroy legal activity as collateral damage?

“Sort of like laws against speeding and parking. Few will come out in favor of them, but we do as a society need them.”

Speeding is based on safety, where more people can actually be injured or killed if they are not correctly enforced. Parking tends to be a local issue and done as much for infrastructure and traffic flow as anything else. Both have far greater direct implications than file sharing ever has. In either case, there’s no attempt at an international treaty forcing people to do things in a particular way. Every nation, county, or even city is free to pass these laws as they see fit according to their needs without threats from the US or bullying by corporations to do things the way *they* want it.

More importantly, while most people understand the need for such laws, few follow them 100% of the time. Every driver has flouted such laws when they need to, and most have done so without being punished, let alone being faced with having to lose their car on the basis of a mere accusation of wrongdoing.

Poor analogy, as ever, is poor.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Your “side” has yet to come up with a law that will get rid of piracy, let alone do so without negatively affecting legal actions. Perhaps you’d like to try that

Why should we? Seriously, isn’t it more appropriate for the people who are deeply concerned about piracy to come up with acceptable solutions for it?

When these solutions cause harm to innocent bystanders, the innocent bystanders have every right to, and should, fight against them. But that doesn’t mean the innocent bystanders have the onus to come up with a better solution.

That said, this blog alone has discussed at least dozens of better ways to address piracy. Other people in other venues have come up with even more.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I wasn’t aware that society as we know it was on the verge of collapse.”

How did you not notice that it is on the verge of collapse? These fools and their unneeded laws are pushing hard to try and collapse our society and replace it with their utopia where they get to collect money from everyone while doing nothing in return.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There is almost never wide public support for laws such as this, especially in the internet era.

Then why exactly are governments who are supposed to be representative of their citizens pushing for such laws? Last I remember I elected politicians into office to represent me. I don’t recall ever voting for a nanny to make decisions for me.

It seems to me you are advocating having the pigs run the Animal Farm because us sheep and cows are just not quite smart enough.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Speaking of strawmen.

Plenty of people will support speed limits and enforcement in places where it’s actually required. I happen to be one of them. But it makes less than no sense to have a highway engineered for speeds of 140 km/h or better to have a speed limit of 90 or 100. Most mountain pass highways DO need limits and enforcement if, for no other reason, to stop idiots from killing themselves and others.

Parking limits are reasonable in commercial areas though enforcement is often overly zealous. I’ve never supported metered parking or liked it but it’s reality and it makes municipalities some money so it’s not going anywhere.

ACTA isn’t bad because it may affect Twitter or YouTube but because its reach is far beyond that and part of a thus far successful attempt to export American and EU IP law to other countries without the consent of the governed there.

It’s attempting to enforce 18th Century solutions to 18th Century problems in the 21st Century. And before it rightly dies it will cause far more damage than it prevents.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well yes, we are worried about losing our Youtube or twitter.
Take the real world analogies you love so much. If I’m accused of stealing a book or a DVD from a shop, what happens? Nothing. Because I’ve only been ACCUSED, not convicted. If convicted, I face a fine and if its a repeat offence, I may face some jail time. However, I would NEVER be told that I would lose access to all books or all movies.

Yet, with ACTA and SOPA, we were being threatened with losing the equivalent of all books/movies: our internet access, and all on the basis of accusations. Nowhere in those documents was written a policy to follow to see if a website is actually guilty of something: it was all accuse, get ISP/payment processor to kill it or they lose their own proections.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Never wide public support? What the fuck are you talking about? Aren’t you and darryl the ones who keep telling us that we don’t know what we’re talking about whenever we state that no sane person would want these laws, and that our position is in the minority?

So now that your position is in the minority, how about you be the one to shut up?

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

More inertia than ghosts even. Reforming anti-drug laws will take the same effort that it will take to stop the IP maximalists and drive them back into their hole under their rock.

Just look at all the groups who profit from the “war on drugs”. Police agencies, anti-drug “research” centres, border agencies, Homeland Security in the United States and its equivalents elsewhere not to mention the infamous “middle men” the crime groups, local, national and international. The growers of organic based drugs certainly aren’t making out like bandits on any of it.

In the end the “war on drugs” will be lost. No doubt at all of that. In the meantime, what with the “what about the terrorists” argument following 9/11 in western democracies each of us drifts closer to a police state.

ACTA, SOPA, the IP maximalists who seek to limit human freedom in the name of “the artist” who the IP maximalists do everything they can not to support is a symptom. It’s all about control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Multilateral systems and discussions on ACTA: Why does one not try and get a comment from WIPO on these matters? M. Geist speaks that they are in a better position to discuss such issues, but the very same people that promoted ACTA are the very same people attending WIPO Standing Committees. Get real and serious on the multilateral question: Get a comment from WIPO, if you can!

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