ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) – an international treaty – to which Britain signed on, will now go before the European Court of Justice “for legal guidance on whether it is fully compatible with freedom of expression AND FREEDOM OF THE INTERNET.” EU ratification has come to a halt. But what about in the U.S.?
Before the American people were protesting the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, the president managed to sign an international treaty which would permit foreign companies to demand that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) remove web content in the United States without any legal oversight.
Entitled the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the treaty was signed by Obama on October 1, 2011, but it is currently a subject of discussion because the White House is circulating a petition demanding that senators ratify the treaty.
What’s worse is that the White House has done some maneuvering — characterizing the treaty as an “executive agreement” — thereby bypassing approval by members of Congress. Concerned by this action of the administration, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore) sent a letter to President Obama in which he declared:
“It may be possible for the U.S. to implement ACTA or any other trade agreement, once validly entered, without legislation if the agreement requires no change in U.S. law. But regardless of whether the agreement requires changes in U.S. law … the executive branch lacks constitutional authority to enter a binding international agreement covering issues delegated by the Constitution to Congress’ authority, absent” congressional approval.”
See the announcement of the signing here. So, we have a Treaty signed by Obama, and awaiting ratification by Congress until and unless the administration can escape scrutiny through an Executive Agreement. The USTR (US Trade Representative) (Ambassador Ron Kirk) is advocating for the Executive Agreement.
The USTR had been insisting that because ACTA does not require any change to US law, it doesn’t need any such approval. Of course, that ignores a few issues. First, while it may not change US laws, it seems likely that it would restrict future changes to laws if we wanted to stay in compliance. For that reason alone, it should have Congressional approval. But the larger point is that international agreements signed without Congressional approval — so-called “executive agreements,” — can only be done for issues solely under the President’s mandate.
More from Senator Wyden’s letter to Obama, courtesy of TechDirt:
I request that as a condition of the U.S. putting forward any official instrument that accepts the terms of ACTA that you formally declare that ACTA does not create any international obligations for the U.S. — that ACTA is not binding. If you are unwilling or unable to make such a clarification, it is imperative that your administration provide the Congress, and the public, with a legal rationale for why ACTA should not be considered by Congress, and work with us to ensure that we reach a common understanding of the proper way for the U.S. to proceed with ACTA.
From what I find online, Wyden may not have received a response from Obama, but did receive a response from USTR.
The European Commission and the European Council of member states have already approved ACTA, which has faced prompted demonstration in a number of European capitals, including Berlin and Paris. The European Parliament is set to debate it formally in June. A number of senior parliamentarians have raised concerns about the treaty, and last week, Justice Commissioner Vivane Reding had publicly backed calls by some parliamentarians calling for an ECJ review.
ACTA is an international legal framework for targeting counterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement on the Internet. Critics said it endangers freedom of speech and privacy. Wednesday’s decision means ratification of the treaty, which took years to negotiate, could be by more than a year. The U.S. is among states from outside the EU that have also signed the agreement.
“We are planning to ask Europe’s highest court to assess whether ACTA is incompatible–in any way–with the EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and information or data protection and the right to property in case of intellectual property,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said Wednesday…
The delay for ACTA comes in the wake of similar controversy in the U.S. Attempts by U.S. legislators to introduce legislation designed to protect intellectual property online were withdrawn in the face of strong protest [SOPA and PIPA].
In a Grumpy Opinion editorial where I started this story, the Obama-Hollywood connection is made – “Harry Reid and some others want Hollywood and Media campaign money,” and are not above blackmail to get legislation passed…
…former US Sen. Chris Dodd threaten to cut off all political contributions from Hollywood’s filmmakers unless Congress passed a bill to their liking. Nothing like being able buy any law you want from Congress.
The above quote referred to the eventually failed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act and PIPA (Protect IP Act). Today, taking down power grids is the excuse. Grumpy asks:
Are there not already laws on the books that cover sabotaging vital national security interests?
Another backdoor maneuver by our globalist president. Grumpy Opinions urges us to call our legislators and as Judge Andrew Napolitano says:
We should make the Government afraid of us. AFRAID OF US. Because as Jefferson reminded us “when the people fear the Government there is tyranny, but when the Government fears the people, there is liberty.
Find your CongressCritter here. Ask that Congress push for Obama to answer Wyden – not his Trade Prepresentative. It will be interesting to see what the judgement of the European Court of Justice turns out to be, hopefully it will be more than just a cover for the negotiations that many see as secretly devised.