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Two Senators Call For ACTA Transparency 214

Posted by kdawson
from the we-got-more-senators-than-that dept.
angry tapir writes "Two US senators have asked President Barack Obama's administration to allow the public to review and comment on a controversial international copyright treaty being negotiated largely in secret. The public has a right to know what's being negotiated in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Senators Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, and Bernard Sanders, a Vermont Independent, argue in the letter."
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Two Senators Call For ACTA Transparency

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  • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:25PM (#30222048) Journal

    Indeed. It's a shame that only 2% of the senate is willing to stand up against this gross violation of transparency and democratic principles.

    That really surprises you? Our Congress is anything but transparent. Bills aren't drafted in public and debated on the floor -- they are written behind closed doors by the Congressional leadership and only brought to the floor for some grandstanding in front of the C-SPAN cameras before the vote (whose outcome is already pre-determined) is taken. It's even worse in the House than the Senate. In the House you can't do ANYTHING without the approval of the leadership. We are supposed to have a House of Representatives but it's really a House of whatever [insert current speaker here] wants to allow to the floor.

    Our Government stopped being about transparency and democratic principles a long time ago.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:32PM (#30222092)

    The senators can sign a law that takes a way the parts of the bill of rights.

  • by angry tapir (1463043) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:35PM (#30222104) Homepage
    Here's the link [goodgearguide.com.au] to the longer article that was originally in my story submission before the editor removed it. It includes a link to a PDF of the letter [publicknowledge.org].

    cheers,
    A. Tapir

  • by afidel (530433) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:00PM (#30222258)
    Brown's been on the good side of technology legislation for a LONG time, when he was over in the House he served on the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet and was almost always on the side of the citizenry. Every time I've written him about issues concerning me I have received a detailed and thought-out response, some signed by him personally. I've also had the pleasure to meet him in person on numerous occasions and even had the chance to follow-up on some of those letters. He remembered details of my correspondence so I'm fairly certain they were not simply responded too by staffers. He might not be as approachable today as a senator has significantly more constituents but I doubt he cares less about them.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:00PM (#30222262) Journal

    Senators don't sign laws or treaties, they only approve them.
    The President is the one who ultimately wields the pen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:15PM (#30222380)

    Indeed. It's a shame that only 2% of the senate is willing to stand up against this gross violation of transparency and democratic principles.

    That really surprises you? Our Congress is anything but transparent. Bills aren't drafted in public and debated on the floor -- they are written behind closed doors by the Congressional leadership and only brought to the floor for some grandstanding in front of the C-SPAN cameras before the vote (whose outcome is already pre-determined) is taken. It's even worse in the House than the Senate. In the House you can't do ANYTHING without the approval of the leadership. We are supposed to have a House of Representatives but it's really a House of whatever [insert current speaker here] wants to allow to the floor.

    Our Government stopped being about transparency and democratic principles a long time ago.

    It could be worse. In Canada, our members in the House of Commons have to vote with their party or be removed from it (so votes on bills really are predetermined here). And the senate has rubber stamped every bill through for years.

  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:32PM (#30222458)

    Yes and no. They can still put something into law with 2/3rds majority vote.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:55PM (#30222608)
    The Legislature is supposed to WRITE the laws, the President signing a law is the approval part.
  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:06AM (#30222666)

    Seconded. He was a Republican long before proclaiming himself Libertarian. Republican and all that is implied by that...

    http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/angry-white-man?id=e2f15397-a3c7-4720-ac15-4532a7da84ca [tnr.com]

  • by arkenian (1560563) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:27AM (#30222798)
    Okay let us be clear here about treaties. This process does not follow the normal process for laws because its . . . different. The president gets to negotiate a treaty with a foreign power or powers. The senate then has to ratify it with 51 votes (but really 60 for the usual reasons in the senate.) The senate can't override the president on a treaty. Now, that said, while the senators don't have any authority as to the terms of the treaty, its a problem for the president if he negotiates a treaty the senate won't ratify. It reduces his credibility for all future treaties, so generally if two senators make a request, he's at least going to listen. Especially when those votes are ones he's counting on for his agenda in other matters. And yes, despite the irregular nature of it all, a treaty once negotiated by the president and ratified by the senate becomes part of the law of the land, unless it otherwise violates the constitution.
  • Re:In secret?! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:34AM (#30222828)

    There was a TechDirt article on ACTA a few days ago. According to the industries who are supporting this:
    "All treaties are negotiated like this, secrecy is normal"

  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @12:40AM (#30222854)

    He ran as a Libertarian in the 1988 presidential election.

    Political party:
    Republican (1976-1988)
    Libertarian (1988 Presidential Election)
    Republican (1988-Present)

    He remains a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republican_Liberty_Caucus [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Paul [wikipedia.org]

  • by Z34107 (925136) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:24AM (#30223052)

    IIRC, the President can sign whatever treaties he wants - but Congress still has to vote them into law, somewhat like a regular bill. This means that, say, Obama could sign this treaty and Congress could totally ignore it.

    If Congress did sign the treaty into law, the Supreme Court could overturn the law that actually makes the treaty binding... but only if it is challenged, and the challenge gets to the Supreme Court.

    Cheques and balances!

  • by grcumb (781340) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @02:34AM (#30223306) Homepage Journal

    It never was -- there aren't good old days. Transparency and openness only became possible with mass media, mass literacy and cheap papers a century to a century and a half ago, depending on how you look at it.

    Indeed. The fascinating history of the Belgian 'colonisation' (read: enslavement) of the Congo, King Leopold's Ghost [wikipedia.org], deals tangentially with a campaign in the run-up to the First World War to shed light on all the secret treaties that Britain had signed and which led it inevitably into war.

    The campaigner was vilified in the press and mocked by government sources as a delusional paranoid. It was only in the years following the conflict that he was proven to have been substantially correct,

    Believe it or not, the situation we have today is about as good as it's ever been. We do at least have some hope of actually exerting electoral pressure on our candidates, and governments do at some point have to bring information such as this into the open. Congrtulations to the two senators for their actions. Their efforts[*] should be supported, regardless of party affiliation.

    ---------------

    [*] Their efforts, that is, not them. One of the great pitfalls of modern democracy is that we often confuse the person with the policy. Policies should be supported or opposed, not people.

  • Re:In secret?! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Reed Solomon (897367) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @03:22AM (#30223482) Homepage

    you mean like all of those RIAA judges Obama's been appointing to the supreme court?

  • by langelgjm (860756) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @10:05AM (#30225426) Journal

    One of the (many) problems with ACTA from the US perspective is that it's not being negotiated as a treaty, which would then require ratification by the Senate before becoming law. It's being negotiated as an "executive agreement", which requires zero Congressional oversight. Ostensibly this also means that it cannot go beyond the bounds of existing US law, and of course the USTR et al. all assure us that it doesn't, but without seeing the text, there is no way to know if that's actually true or not.

    Another point - from my own perspective, one of the main problems with ACTA is not necessarily its effect on the US, but rather on other countries. At least in the US we already have well-established fair use provisions and other protections (safe harbor, counter notification, etc.), however that is not always the case elsewhere. If ACTA exports all the draconian features of our IP laws without any of the protections, it has the effect of screwing over everyone else. ACTA is currently being negotiated mostly among OECD countries (they could never have pushed it through WIPO, there is too much opposition from the G77), but when it's finally established, we can expect it to become a requirement for anyone who wants to sign a free-trade agreement with the US.

  • Re:In secret?! (Score:3, Informative)

    by ultranova (717540) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @11:10AM (#30226080)

    As a certain fleeing Roman Senator commented ~2000 years ago, "Where is there to go? There is no part of the known world that is not within reach of Rome."

    China?

    If this gets modded Insighful/Informative... be afraid. Be very afraid.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik

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