Last week, I wrote about how a little bit of sunlight
on the so-called ACTA treaty was bringing out well-deserved anger towards the treaty. But the problem is that there's only been a "little bit" of sunlight -- mostly from Canadian newspapers, despite this treaty being suggested around the world. Copyright expert William Patry is ringing the bell to try to get everyone to demand a lot more sunlight on this awful proposed treaty
, noting that the whole thing is being negotiated in secret (with tremendous help from the entertainment industry), and it's being pushed not by Congress (which is supposed to manage copyright law), but by the US Trade Representative who is under the faulty belief
that stronger intellectual property rules are always a good thing.
The attitude of USTR toward copyright is a blinkered, one-sided view that copyright is good and therefore as much of it as possible is even better. But a view is just that unless there is political muscle to implement it, and here lies the systemic danger, the fact that USTR is in the driver’s seat in initiating and negotiating agreements that are cast as trade agreements, but which are in fact agreements fundamentally reshaping substantive IP law. No trade official in any country, no matter how well intentioned, should have that authority. In the U.S., the power to make copyright policy vests exclusively in the Congress. We do not want our trade representatives to negotiate on their own agreements that require changes in domestic copyright laws and then present the agreement after signature to the legislature as a fait d’accompli.
And while there were a flurry of articles last week in the Canadian press about this, it's pretty much died out, and the US press hasn't picked up on the story for whatever reason.
The overriding problem is not with any particular proposal (although there is lots wrong with the proposals) but with a secret process, run by trade representatives, trying to rewrite the laws on incredibly contentious substantive issues that were thrashed out in public previously, but are now being rewritten in secret and through the blinkered perspective of trade, not copyright policy. People usually work in the shadows because they are ashamed to work in the sunlight. It is up to us to open the windows, otherwise they will stay shut and we will be shut out from decisions that will seriously impact us, well beyond the search of our laptops and iPods at borders and airports often-cited as an example of how ACTA might work.
Let's bring a lot
more sunlight into what's going on here, as it's quite a dangerous proposition that could lead to dire economic results and the stifling of innovation if this "trade agreement" is allowed to move forward. It would effectively hamper nearly everyone, in a misguided effort to prop up one industry's obsolete business model. If it's "trade policy," it's the worst kind of protectionism that will seriously harm our economy. There is no way this discussion should be happening in secret.