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. icon
    Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 4 Jun 2012 @ 3:28pm

    Rebuttal

    The Administration has recognized previously the importance of protecting an open and innovative Internet in the context of our response to other petitions regarding the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Since ACTA is quite different than SOPA and PIPA, we’ve decided to provide an ACTA-specific response.


    The administration said nothing either way till it was pretty much over. Since then, it has continued to ply its trade by means of #IPR (intellectual property rights) expansion and enforcement. Every one of the major departments, from law enforcement to the military to the USTR has been toeing the line on this. Your statements about protecting an open and innovative Internet are contradicted by your actions on the world stage. That's why the treaty negotiations are restricted to the corporate stakeholders, isn't it? Eh? We know what you're up to and we don't approve!


    ACTA is an international trade agreement that establishes high standards for intellectual property enforcement. The Agreement provides for: (1) enhanced international cooperation; (2) the promotion of sound enforcement practices; and (3) a legal framework for better enforcement.


    Please explain the use of unfamiliar, unrecognised terms like "fair process." "Sound enforcement practices?" What about "innocent until proven guilty?" What legal framework? ACTA subverts standard legal practice and is basically a licence to troll.


    As you may know, the proliferation of counterfeit and pirated goods poses considerable challenges for legitimate trade and economic development.


    No, +The White House, that would be you, via #IPR trolling. Explain why "evergreening" is acceptable as a trade practice. You can't, can you?


    Protecting intellectual property rights helps to further public policies that are designed to protect the public.


    Do I detect the stench of bovine waste? Trading standards and public health and safety laws are more applicable to this and you know it.


    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.


    Case in point. FDA on your side of the pond, equivalent agencies on ours. One of these is the Health and Safety Executive. They're the ones who deal with this kind of thing.


    ACTA specifically recognizes the importance of free expression, due process, and privacy.


    ROFL! Please explain all the website and domain seizures, all of which have been done sans due process. Kim Dotcom. JotForm. Dajaz1. The list goes on. I expect to get a load of guff about how none of those were connected to ACTA. That's true, but given your current attitude to your trading partners, I have no faith at all in any of your assurances.


    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.”


    Then why not use internationally recognised terms? Why conflate trademarks with patents and copyright when all are treated differently under law, even in the United States? And how much freedom of expression when your websites is shut down and your domain seized, only to be returned sans explanation with a terse comment about collateral damage? You're like Godzilla, a dangerous monster that lumbers about smashing all in its path and oblivious to the damage you're doing until you stub your toes.


    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.


    Which you're in the process of undermining "because people are making private information public anyway." Don't get me started on #CISPA , your #mass #surveillance bill. I'm glad that's languishing on a shelf somewhere. It should never have passed Congress in the first place.


    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.


    Well they ain't gonna ratify it, we'll see to that. The four main committees have rejected it already so your last gasp is INTA. We've already got their email addresses and a protest is planned for June 19th. I'd like to have an explanation from yourselves about why our complaints have been characterised as "undemocratic" and "cyberbullying."


    We believe that ACTA will help protect the intellectual property that is essential to American jobs in innovative and creative industries.


    Actually, it's the means for exporting American jobs overseas to manufacturers who work under licence to the corporations that own the rights to the patent, copyright, and trademark monopolies for the goods they then import into the US. The only jobs to be had are in registrations, enforcement, and surveillance.


    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.


    Complying with the Agreements means throwing privacy out of the window because there's no way of "preventing infringement" except by monitoring internet usage.

    Surveillance has a chilling effect on freedom of speech and I resent the way we activists have been mischaracterised, ignored, and condescended to. In what way does referring to us as "cyberbullies" and "undemocratic" respect out freedom of expression?

    As I pointed out, there is no way to protect these values if we comply with the Agreement, so the only option is to throw it out. Get a clue.

    ~ The internet.

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