Debunking Reasons For ACTA Secrecy: Just Enforcement Doesn't Tell The Whole Story

from the open-things-up dept

We've had a series of posts debunking all of the bogus claims from supporters of ACTA and the current secrecy involved in the ACTA process -- such as how this secrecy is "normal" (no its not), how this is "just an executive agreement, not a treaty" (the difference is effectively meaningless) and how this can't change US law so there's nothing to worry about (even if it doesn't change US law directly, it can prevent fixing problems in the law, while putting pressure on legislators to change the law anyway). Well, here's another one, courtesy of the folks over at Public Knowledge.

One of the claims that's been made in defense of the "secrecy" around ACTA is that the agreement is really just about "enforcement," rather than any legal changes. While we've already questioned how true that claim really is, John Bergmayer, does a nice job explaining why we should be worried about an agreement on "enforcement" anyway: because the question of enforcement is meaningless compared to the actual procedure of enforcement. Bergmayer quotes Rep. John Dingell to make the point:
"I'll let you write the substance ... you let me write the procedure, and I'll screw you every time."
The fear here is that while ACTA might not technically change US law, it could easily change US procedures and policies on "enforcement" allowing the effective change in the law, without people even realizing it. He quotes Professor Thomas Main, saying:
"procedural reforms can have the effect of denying substantive rights without the transparency, safeguards and accountability that attend public and legislative decision-making."
And, indeed, this is what we've see in the leaked drafts of ACTA. While most (though, certainly not all) of the proposals that have been leaked don't necessarily include a direct change to US law, they often do subtly word things so that existing rights, safeguards and accountability are left out, just as Prof. Main warns. To make sure those subtle changes do not have serious impacts that let certain special interests (in the words of Rep. Dingell) "screw" the public, doesn't it make sense to reveal the contents of what's being negotiated?

Filed Under: acta, enforcement, laws, procedures, restrictions


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2010 @ 3:23pm

    "The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced." - Frank Zappa

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