Internet freedom's on the line. SOPA and PIPA threatened Net
Neutrality and free expression. So does ACTA. More on it below.
For now, the largest online protest in Internet history got Congress
to abandon SOPA and PIPA for now but not permanently. Expect
resurrection in modified form. Language may change but not intent.
Launched on October 23, 2007, America, the EU, Switzerland and Japan
began secretly negotiating a new intellectual property enforcement
treaty - the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
Other nations got involved, including Canada, Australia, South
Korea, New Zealand, Mexico, Jordan, Singapore, and the UAE.
Ostensibly for counterfeit goods protection, it's about
fast-tracking Internet distribution and information technology rules
at the expense of Net Neutrality, privacy, and personal freedoms.
It establishes unrestricted supranational global trade rules. In the
process, it tramples on national sovereignty and personal freedoms.
Moreover, negotiations were secret until WikiLeaks reported in May
"If adopted, (ACTA) would impose a strong, top-down enforcement
regime, with new cooperation requirements upon (ISPs), including
perfunctionary disclosure of customer information."
"The proposal also bans 'anti-circumvention measures which may
affect online anonymity systems and would likely outlaw multi-region
CD/DVD players. The proposal also specifies a plan to encourage
developing nations to accept the legal regime." Those opting out
face retaliatory measures.
On April 22, 2010, Electronic Frontier Foundation writer Gwen Hinze
headlined, "Preliminary Analysis of the Officially Released ACTA
"The text (leaves no doubt) that ACTA is not just about
counterfeiting." It's far more. It covers copyrights, patents, and
other intellectual property forms, including the Internet.
It's also about the ability of users to "communicate, collaborate
and create" freely. In addition, it imposes obligations (on)
Internet intermediaries (and), requir(es) them to police" cyberspace
and its users. As a result, it raises serious questions about open
affordable access, free expression, personal privacy, and "fair use
On May 27, 2011, the Foundation for Free Information Infrastructure
(FFII) said the European Commission published a final ACTA text with
few changes from its last known version. Since introduced, major
media scoundrels reported little about its destructive provisions.
Last October, Washington, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New
Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea signed ACTA. US deputy trade
representative Mariam Sapiro hailed the occasion, saying:
"As with many of the challenges we face in today's global economy,
no government can single-handedly eliminate the problem of global
counterfeiting and piracy. Signing this agreement is therefore an
act of shared leadership and determination in the international
fight against intellectual property theft."
Public Knowledge attorney Rashmi Rangnath called the deal the Obama
administration's "attempt to foist US law on other countries."
It also broke another candidate Obama promise to "(s)upporte the
principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open
competition on the Internet."
In fact, doing so lawlessly circumvented Congress. On October 1,
2011, Obama acted by "executive agreement." He falsely claimed
ACTA's not a treaty requiring Senate approval. Constitutional issues
By law, executive agreements apply only to sole presidential
authority issues. Treaties must be ratified by a two-thirds Senate
supermajority. As a result, a circulating petition demands Senate
consideration. By February 21, 25,000 are needed. So far, thousands
are recorded. Dozens of legal scholars support it.
So far, the administration's stonewalling. It's circumventing the
law like it always does and breaking a campaign pledge in the
process. Post-SOPA/PIPA, Obama diktat authority rammed it through
In contrast, the Mexican Senate rejected it in a non-binding
resolution. On January 26, Poland's Japan ambassador, Jadwiga
Rodowicz-Czechowska, signed it. It's yet to pass parliament.
Public anger raged across the country against it. The hacktivist
group Anonymous targeted signatory countries' official web sites. It
threatened to reveal sensitive information about officials in
countries passing it.
Anti-ACTA sentiment affected Poland's parliament. Opposition MPs
wore masks to reflect their refusal to back it. Poland's Prime
Minister Donald Tusk said he'll submit the treaty to parliament and
sign it provided "the government is sure Polish law guarantees
freedom on the Internet...."
On January 26, infojustice.org headlined, "EU Signs ACTA, But Treaty
Remains in Doubt," saying:
The European Parliament (EP) has final say. Consideration begins
late February or early March. Committee voting follows in April or
May. In June, Parliament decides.
After SOPA and PIPA's derailing, expect a close vote.
On January 23, 2012, FFII headlined, "EP (European Parliament) legal
service consistently overlooks known issues with ACTA," saying:
In a letter to members of the European Parliament, FFII said:
"The legal service fails to see major issues with damages,
injunctions and provisional, border and criminal measures. The legal
service consistently overlooks known issues." Clearly, "ACTA goes
beyond current EU law, the acquis."
According to FFII's Ante Wessels:
"ACTA will negatively impact innovation, start up companies, mass
digitization projects, access to medicines and Internet governance.
ACTA threatens the rule of law and fundamental rights."
FFII asked Parliament to reject ACTA. Issues cited included:
(1) Violating EU law.
(2) Unjustifiably discriminating. Threatens access to generic drugs
and local foods.
(3) Criminalizes "everyday computer use." Liability extends to
private individuals, newspapers, web sites, office workers
forwarding files or documents, and whistleblowers revealing
information in the public interest.
(4) Civil measures also apply to the digital environment. ACTA
pressures ISPs to preemptively censor online communications. It also
"incites privatized enforcement outside the rule of law."
"The ARTICLE 19 organization" said ACTA's "fundamentally flawed from
a freedom of expression and information perspective. If enacted, it
will greatly endanger the free-flow of information and the free
exchange of ideas, particularly on the internet."
(5) Endangering public health by restricting access to medicines. It
cracks down on generic drugs, makes food patents more extreme,
enforces global standards on seed patents, empowers agribusiness,
and threatens small farms and food independence.
(6) Global pricing and cultural life issues aren't addressed.
(7) Violates Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),
"The Union's action on the international scene shall be guided by
the principles (of) democracy, the rule of law, the universality and
indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms...."
Negotiations were conducted secretly. Civil society, public interest
groups, and legislatures were entirely shut out. Major decisions
were made extralegally. They violate established laws and
On December 27, 2011, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said:
ACTA threatens personal and digital freedoms. It creates an
extralegal "global IP enforcement institution to oversee its
implementation." It turns ISPs into enforcers.
The agreement requires signatories "promote cooperative efforts
within the business community" on issues regarding copyright and
As a result, Internet access, censoring, and lost freedom may
"ACTA suffocates collaborative creativity and innovation, and less
explicitly, but just as gravely, threatens free speech through
provisions that may lead to Internet access restrictions for the
'sake' of combating 'imminent violation' of intellectual property
Worst of all, secret negotiations facilitate similarly drafted
future international agreements, benefitting powerful interests at
the expense of personal freedoms. For ACTA, heavy-handed Washington
pressure forced through draconian provisions.
Civil society organizations are outraged. In addition, some nations
exposed gross political treachery in back-room dealmaking. For
example, Brazil called ACTA "illegitimate." The Dutch Parliament
refused to consider it. India strongly opposes it. So do other
emerging economies saying it stifles their development.
Other nations are undecided. They all have until May 2013 to vote up
or down. As a result, Washington's exerting immense pressure to
bring opponents on board.
EFF calls back room dealmaking "an affront to a democratic world
order." It's committed to work with other anti-ACTA groups to defeat
The Inquisitr calls the agreement worse than SOPA and PIPA. It
"takes a fairly bland idea - the right of companies to profit from
their own intellectual property - and turns it into a governmental
power grab and an excuse to weaken" Internet privacy.
La Quadrature du Net (Internet & Libertes) says ACTA "has
absolutely no democratic legitimacy." Unelected bureaucrats drafted
it. It urges mass actions to defeat it.
A Final Comment
ACTA potentially criminalizes almost anything online. It lets
government and corporate predators censor, shut down sites, and
prosecute owners if they object to posted content. Imagine the
effect on free thought and opinion.
Criticize government or corporate lawlessness and be silenced behind
bars. That's why stopping ACTA is crucial. SOPA and PIPA outrage was
round one. ACTA's the main event.
A truth emergency exists. So far, it's mostly below the radar.
Exposing it widely is crucial. Now's the time to act before it's too
Internet freedom's on the chopping block for elimination unless mass
public outrages stops it. EFF cites other plurilateral deals like
the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). It's more draconian
Secret negotiations again drafted it. Bureaucrats alone were
involved. Civil society, public interest groups, and lawmakers had
Internet freedom's on the line. The stakes are immense. Jefferson
understood by saying that:
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of
civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
Now's the time to assure it doesn't happen. Spread the word!
Mobilize! Agitate! Involve Congress! Stop this monster! It's our
Internet! Get in the fight to save it!
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to
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