Sunday, March 14, 2010


For someone who touted transparency as a core value during his campaign, Obama sure hasn't shown any signs of authenticity of such a conviction.

We have seen this clearly over and over throughout the health care debate. From the lack of CNN coverage, to the upwards of 1000 page bill that no one got to read before they voted, to the added pages that no one even had a chance to read even if they were speed readers, to marked absence of the language of the bill being on the internet for all to see, and to the closed door meetings.

Then, there is Climategate. While the original manipulation of data used to promote and justify global warming may or may not have been known by the Obama Administration, their silence about their revelations is another effort in hiding the truth from the public. Today, Obama's "Inconvenient Truth" is the lack of integrity in the data and conclusions regarding global warming theories. By not bringing it fully out into the light, he is once again obstructing transparency.

And, then again this evening, I read yet one more very telling, if not troubling, example of our president's lack of need for transparency.

This time it regards the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). I'll copy and paste the article and highlight the parts that were most interesting to me. Mainly, it's the EU's concern toward the lack of transparency in the trade agreement versus Obama's lack concern.

Europe trashes ACTA as Obama praises it, By Nate Anderson
Earlier this week, we noted that the major parties in the European Parliament had all agreed on a resolution trashing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and the secret process that has been hashing it out. That resolution has passed Parliament by a huge margin—633 yes votes, 13 no votes, and 16 abstentions.

The Greens/EFA coalition praised the vote. Greens MEP Carl Schlyter of Sweden said that "ACTA risks becoming known as the Absence of Commission Transparency Agreement... The EU cannot continue to negotiate on ACTA if the people are not allowed to take part in the process. It is also a totally absurd and unacceptable situation if MEPs, behind closed doors, have to ask the Commission about the content of the agreements we are supposed to vote on."

Christian Engström, the lone Pirate Party rep in Parliament, summed up the vote as an "epic win" that showed "the European Parliament is not a doormat."

The resolution demanded complete access to the ACTA negotiating texts, and it threatens a lawsuit if the European Commission fails to turn them over. Parliament was particularly miffed that the process has taken place in such secrecy, when major international IP treaties have in fact been negotiated much more openly at venues like WIPO and the WTO.

The resolution doesn't call for an end to ACTA, but instead a limit to the core principles of counterfeiting and piracy—broad new enforcement measures like Internet disconnection should not be a part of it.

The Commission speaks

The EU Commissioner for Trade, Karel de Gucht, tried to head off the vote this week by telling Parliament that he heard their concerns.

"The Commission is in favour of releasing the negotiating documents as soon as possible," he said. "However, a few ACTA negotiating parties remain opposed to an early release. I strongly disagree with their approach, but I can not unilaterally breach a confidentiality commitment. My credibility as a negotiator is at stake. Nevertheless, I will see to it that at the next negotiating round, in April, the Commission will vigorously push its negotiating partners to agree to release the text and I will raise European Parliament concerns bilaterally with ACTA parties like the US I am scheduled to meet before then."

He also offered more detailed briefings with any MEP who wants one, and he pledged that "three strikes" would stay out of the deal. "I am aware of the concerns expressed by some of you about the introduction of a compulsory 'three strikes rule' or a 'graduated response' system to fight copyright infringements and Internet piracy," he said. "Let me be very clear on this, so there is no room for ambiguity... The EU does not support and will not accept that ACTA creates an obligation to disconnect people from the internet because of illegal downloads."

As we have reported, the current (leaked) ACTA draft would require that ISPs have some policy in place to "address the unauthorized storage or transmission of materials protected by copyright." A footnote provides a single example of such a policy: "providing for termination in appropriate circumstances of subscriptions and accounts in the service provider's system or network of repeat infringers."

Internet disconnection isn't mandatory, but it is currently encouraged by ACTA.

Obama on ACTA

As Europe's politicians were calling for transparency and limitations, President Obama went to the US Export-Import Bank and made a speech in which he praised ACTA. Yes, it was mentioned only once, but the treaty was picked out by name, and without qualification.

"What’s more, we’re going to aggressively protect our intellectual property. Our single greatest asset is the innovation and the ingenuity and creativity of the American people," said Obama. "That’s why USTR is using the full arsenal of tools available to crack down on practices that blatantly harm our businesses, and that includes negotiating proper protections and enforcing our existing agreements, and moving forward on new agreements, including the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement."
I hate that he will say, "we're going to aggressively protect our intellectual property", but does not "aggressively protect our freedom."

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