The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA): The Corporate Usurpation of the Internet
by Nile Bowie
January 27, 2012
In the wake of a public outcry against internet regulation bills such as SOPA and PIPA, representatives of the EU have signed a new and far more threatening legislation yesterday in Tokyo. Spearheaded by the governments of the United States and Japan and constructed largely in the absence of public awareness, the measures of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) dramatically alter current international legal framework, while introducing the first substantial processes of global internet governance. With complete contempt towards the democratic process, the negotiations of the treaty were exclusively held between industry representatives and government officials, while excluding elected representatives and members of the press from their hearings.
Under the guise of protecting intellectual property rights, the treaty introduces measures that would allow the private sector to enforce sweeping central authority over internet content. The ACTA abolishes all legal oversight involving the removal of content and allows copyright holders to force ISPs to remove material from the internet, something that presently requires a court order. ISPs would then be faced with legal liabilities if they chose not to remove content. Theoretically, personal blogs can be removed for using company logos without permission or simply linking to copy written material; users could be criminalized, barred from accessing the internet and even imprisoned for sharing copyrighted material. Ultimately, these implications would be starkly detrimental toward the internet as a medium for free speech.
The Obama Administration subverted the legal necessity of allowing to US Senate to ratify the treaty by unconstitutionally declaring it an “executive agreement” before the President promptly signed it on October 1, 2011. As a touted constitutional lawyer, Barack Obama is fully aware that Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution, mandates Congress in dealing with issues of intellectual property, thus voiding the capacity for the President to issue an executive agreement. The White House refused to even disclose details about the legislation to elected officials and civil libertarians over concern that doing so may incur “damage to the national security.” While some may hang off every word of his sorely insincere speeches and still be fixated by the promises of hope offered by brand-Obama, his administration has trampled the constitution and introduced the most comprehensive authoritarian legislation in America’s history.