White House's Weak Response To Petition Against ACTA

from the bad-petition,-bad-result dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about two different petitions on the White House's official petition platform concerning ACTA. We noted that one of the petitions was very oddly worded, talking about getting the US to "end ACTA." It's description was a bit confused, and didn't seem to understand the process or history behind ACTA. There was a second one that was focused more accurately on asking the White House to submit ACTA to the Senate for ratification, as required by the Constitution. Unfortunately, only the first, oddly worded, petition reached the official vote threshold to require a response from the White House. The other petition has since been disappeared from the site.

However, while it took a while, the White House has finally responded, in the form of Miriam Sapiro, who is the deputy US Trade Rep -- i.e., second in command to USTR Ron Kirk. So, it's no surprise that her response is the usual mix of misleading to downright questionable statements:
As you may know, the proliferation of counterfeit and pirated goods poses considerable challenges for legitimate trade and economic development. Protecting intellectual property rights helps to further public policies that are designed to protect the public. ACTA will help authorities, for example, protect against the threat posed by potentially unsafe counterfeit goods that can pose a significant risk to public health, such as toothpaste with dangerous amounts of diethylene glycol (a chemical used in brake fluid), auto parts of unknown quality or suspect semiconductors used in life-saving defibrillators.
Yup. Start out with the usual misleading crap of focusing solely on "health" risks from physical counterfeiting... totally ignoring that physical counterfeiting is an entirely different issue than copyright infringement of digital goods. But never bother to separate out or differentiate, even though the bulk of ACTA is targeted at dealing with digital infringement. As ACTA supporters have done since day one, they figure that if they just keep talking about counterfeit physical goods causing harm enough, perhaps they can avoid addressing the real issues -- which is exactly what Sapiro does here. Weak.
ACTA specifically recognizes the importance of free expression, due process, and privacy. It is the first -- and only -- international intellectual property rights agreement to provide explicitly that enforcement of intellectual property rights in the context of the Internet "shall be implemented in a manner that … preserves fundamental principles such as freedom of expression, fair process, and privacy." No provision in ACTA requires parties to disclose information "contrary to … laws protecting privacy rights." This includes the protections already in place in U.S. law.
This, unfortunately, is because of the oddly worded original petition, that focused on "privacy," rather than the many other more serious problems with ACTA. It gave Sapiro an out by pretending that ACTA deals with the "problems" people are raising, while avoiding addressing any of the real problems, which aren't really about privacy.
In addition to the United States, approximately thirty countries have signed the Agreement, including Australia, Canada, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Morocco, Singapore, and a majority of European Union member states, as well as the EU itself.
This is a nice bit of trickery. While many countries did "sign" the agreement, signing and ratifying are completely different issues, and as we've seen, the EU Parliament is hopefully very, very close to rejecting ACTA. That Sapiro doesn't even acknowledge this true state of things is really rather incredible. As with her boss, she seems to be actively insulting the intelligence of people who are concerned about ACTA, by pretending (completely falsely) that there is worldwide acceptance of ACTA already.
We believe that ACTA will help protect the intellectual property that is essential to American jobs in innovative and creative industries. At the same time, ACTA recognizes the importance of online privacy, freedom of expression and due process, and calls on signatories to protect these values in the course of complying with the Agreement.
[citation needed]

This whole response is pretty insulting. Yes, part of the problem was the poorly worded original petition, but the fact that Sapiro doesn't address any of the actual concerns of ACTA, and then pretends everything's just peachy with the agreement (and totally ignores the major constitutional question about how the Executive Branch can sign a treaty covering powers only granted to the Congress without Congressional approval), suggests a White House and USTR that still thinks it's pulling a fast one over on the American public.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jun 2012 @ 12:49pm

    Pop quiz

    Which sentence better describe liberty, freedom or rights?

    A)Government tells its people what they think WE should be more cencerned about

    or

    B)We tell governments what we feel WE should be more concerned about

    Answers on a postcard

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