US, EU, Canada, Japan, Australia & Others To Sign ACTA This Weekend, Despite Legal Concerns

by Stephan Kinsella on September 28, 2011

Disturbing news from Mike Masnick at Techdirt:

US, EU, Canada, Japan, Australia & Others To Sign ACTA This Weekend, Despite Legal Concerns

from the failure dept

Despite serious Constitutional concerns in the US, and significant legal questions in the EU, it appears that the US and the EU, along with most of the other participants in the ACTA negotiations are planning to sign ACTA this weekend in Japan. In the US, this may very well lead to a Constitutional challenge. President Obama, via the USTR, is ignoring the Senate’s oversight concerning treaties, by pretending ACTA is not a treaty, but rather an “executive agreement.” Pretty much everyone else agrees that ACTA is a binding treaty — in fact, EU negotiators have been quite vocal on that point.

But even if this is considered “an executive agreement,” the President does not have the authority to sign an executive agreement concerning intellectual property issues. Executive agreements can only be signed if they cover issues solely under the President’s mandate. But intellectual property issues are clearly under Congress’s mandate, and nowhere in the Constitution is the President given a mandate over IP issues. This is a clear end-run around Congress, and seems likely to be unconstitutional.

What I really don’t get is why they’re making such an end-run. As we’ve seen with things like PROTECT IP, most of the Senate seems to have no problem propping up the entertainment industry’s legacy players with bogus laws and “greater enforcement.” It seems likely that ACTA would probably sail through the Senate with little problem. But the administration seems to not even want to have the slightest debate on the topic — which is greatly troubling, considering that the USTR negotiated the agreement in near total secrecy, refusing to allow public comment or debate (outside of leaks which it tried to block) until after the document was done.

The others that are listed as planning to sign the document are Japan, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and Switzerland. Basically all the countries who took part in the negotiations. The fact that Mexico is on that list is interesting, given that the Mexican Congress has already told the Mexican President that it will not ratify ACTA, and made it clear that Mexico needs Congress to ratify ACTA to have it go into effect. In other words, it sounds like Mexico is facing a similar executive run-around as in the US.

It’s pretty amazing. This isn’t even just about Presidents doing an end-run around the public, but around their own legislatures. And for what? A bailout of some legacy entertainment industry players who are unwilling to adapt.

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