by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) The more some people associated with passage of the global Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) learn about its onerous privacy-stealing provisions, the less they want anything to do with it. The latest example comes from a European Parliament official charged with investigating the measure, who quit his post in disgust this week after proclaiming it hasn’t, in essence, been properly vetted.
“I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organizations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, exclusion of the [European Union] Parliament’s demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly,” said Kader Arif, the “rapporteur” of the measure said this week. A rapporteur is charged with investigating an issue.
“Everyone knows the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether it is its impact on civil liberties, the way it makes Internet access providers liable (our emphasis), its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little protection it gives to our geographical indications,” he said.
“This agreement might have major consequences on citizens’ lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade.”
ACTA, global big brother to SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act in the United States, is designed to protect intellectual property, say its American and European supporters. But critics have repeatedly charged it is a monster threat to U.S. civil liberties and consumer privacy, among other rights and freedoms. Arif’s objections to the measure, and his resignation from the “masquerade,” are significant because you might say he had an insider’s look at both the agreement itself and the process by which it has been heralded and approved along the way.
“If there’s one thing that encapsulates what’s wrong with the way government functions today, ACTA is it,” the Electronic Freedom Foundation – a watchdog group that monitors Internet privacy and freedom issues – said in recent blog post.
“Negotiated in secret, ACTA bypassed checks and balances of existing international IP norm-setting bodies, without any meaningful input from national parliaments, policymakers, or their citizens,” said the post. “Worse still, the agreement creates a new global institution, an ‘ACTA Committee’ to oversee its implementation and interpretation that will be made up of unelected members with no legal obligation to be transparent in their proceedings. Both in substance and in process, ACTA embodies an outdated top-down, arbitrary approach to government that is out of step with modern notions of participatory democracy.”
Worse, it’s possible the agreement is creating a constitutional crisis in the United States. President Obama has maintained he has the authority to approve it in his capacity as head of the Executive branch, since it’s not a treaty and therefore not subject to Senate “advise and consent.” But, argue the experts, the classification of an executive-only agreement – no matter how rightly claimed by the president – is false, based on historical and procedural precedent.
“The president has no independent constitutional authority over intellectual property or communications policy, and there is no long historical practice of making sole executive agreements in this area,” write Jack Goldsmith and Lawrence Lessig, both professors at Harvard Law School, in the Washington Post. “To the contrary, the Constitution gives primary authority over these matters to Congress, which is charged with making laws that regulate foreign commerce and intellectual property.”
ACTA’s backers say the experts are wrong. Who do you believe?