Everybody was doing a little dance to the historic collapse of Congressional support for SOPA and PIPA, but then those in the know looked up from their monitors and asked, “What about ACTA?”
In a thriving Democracy, the work is never done, but with the SOPA/PIPA debacle, a celebration was in order. If you haven’t checked the status of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or that of the Protect IP Act, well they’ve been put on hold. Or, in the generic terms of about every defeated member of Congress, these items of legislation “need to be looked at.” You mean you didn’t even look at them?
In their stead some enlightened Congress men and women are touting #OPEN, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, also known as the all-caps hashtag that’s been Tweeted all the way to Congress. According to the #OPEN website, the bill will secure the following notions:
1. Americans have a right to benefit from what they’ve created.
2. Americans have a right to an open Internet.
It has its critics. Forbes magazine says it’s a no go, and according to Wikipedia, Santa Clara University School of Law professor Eric Goldman says it’s “flawed, but more salvageable” than SOPA.
#OPEN currently resides at Keep the Web Open, a website where you can not only read, but also edit the bill. That’s very cool, and very Internet, and has so far surpassed the sneaky back room deals that spawned SOPA and PIPA. Which brings us to ACTA, or Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a bill once so covert that both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama turned down freedom of information requests for it, citing issues of national security.
Those executive deflections had Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon decrying the treaty and saying: “When international accords, like ACTA, are conceived and constructed under a cloak of secrecy, it is hard to argue that they represent the broad interests of the general public.” That changed when in early 2009 WikiLeaks wrangled some of the agreement and shared it. Critics of the SOPA-like legislation were up in arms and, as of March 21, 2012, Senator Wyden has tacked onto the JOBS (Jumpstart our Business Startups) bill an amendment that would require Congressional approval of ACTA before the United States enacts it. (So far it’s been signed onto by 31 countries but none have yet to ratify it.)
So what is ACTA? It’s supposed to create an international standard for the enforcement of intellectual property rights. Its big targets are to be counterfeited goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement, but as early as 2008 the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote on its website that the “ACTA juggernaut continues to roll ahead, despite public indignation about an agreement supposedly about counterfeiting that has turned into a regime for global Internet regulation.”
Edward Black, President and CEO, Computer and Communications Industry Association, said the same thing in his commentary on Forbes.com. “Defenders of ACTA do not acknowledge that like SOPA and PIPA it was procedurally bankrupt in attempting to govern the public through an agreement that had been crafted in secret by special interests.”
So where does that leave us, the people thriving on this amazing and infinite canvas for free speech and opportunity? Kind of back where we were. Which isn’t all bad. For one, we now know what to do and two, there’s no better place to be when you know something’s worth fighting for.
Next: Part II – What we can do.