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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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  • It sucks. It can't be good if they have negotiate "largely" in secret.

    There's my comment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Yeah, but if they do it in secret then ratify it, it won't really be law. Turns out the government can't enact domestic laws simply by signing treaties - or if they try they won't necessarily stand up in court.

      The fact that ACTA is likely to contain punitive measures without a proper hearing will get up most judges noses. I would think it's probably unconstitutional and may even be an act of treason attempting to put the interests and wishes of a corporation or group of corporations above Crown and law. Run

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tinkerghost (944862)
        Actually, they can. Military treaties have to be approved by the Senate, but if the authority of the president permits him to pass an executive order governing the contents of the treaty, only he needs to sign it. It's a process called Fast Tracking and this wouldn't be the first one to be approved that way.
        • When ACTA becomes a military treatment, it's time to get the hell out of ... umm... everywhere.

        • Re:In secret?! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Max Littlemore (1001285) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @04:07AM (#30223918)

          Yeah but I did mention the Crown. This is why, as an Australian, I still support the monarchy. I don't care much about the queen, I'm sure she's lovely, but the Crown gives us a certain amount of protection.

          it's a perfect example of how the constitutional monarchy actually provides freedom from rampant capitalism.

          Yank baiting aside, the reason I responded directly like that without modifying my thoughts for American consumption is that /. is international and Australia, Canada and Great Britain are in ACTA negotiations. I don't know if this is common in the Commonwealth, but at least here, they can't make it legal without parliament and if they do it is potentially a serious offense. Maybe I'm just rubbing it in.

          So basically we can sign the treaty to do the usual brown nose and it won't be law for but it will for you. Geez, you the people nedd to reclaim your constitution.

        • Fast tracking is different from executive orders. Fast track (now called trade promotion authority) allows the president to negotiate a trade treaty in advance, then present the entire package to Congress in a take-it-or-leave-it fashion. This prevents trade negotiation from getting bogged down in Congress - without fast tracking, every senator is going to want a tariff on whatever their state happens to produce.

          Fast track really isn't relevant to ACTA for two reasons. First, as I pointed out elsewhere, it'

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mweather (1089505)

        Yeah, but if they do it in secret then ratify it, it won't really be law. Turns out the government can't enact domestic laws simply by signing treaties - or if they try they won't necessarily stand up in court.

        This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Reed Solomon (897367)

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

      • 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

      • Better go look up the World Trade Organization. Half the stuff that organization does is by means of processes that aren't transparent at all. There's not been even a hint that anyone in the legal community might suggest the WTO has done anything improper.

        If you wish to fight ACTA, you better get off your butt and do it now. The lawyers aren't going to fight it afterward.

  • ROFLCOPTER (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:16PM (#30221978)

    Why legislate in the open when you can negotiate secret treaties in the dark?

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    It doesn't matter if this treaty is filled with rainbows and puppies. It needs to be killed as a matter of principle. Free people and free nations do not make law in the dark.

    • by jerep (794296)

      I don't think we ever were free in that respect to begin with :)

    • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:41PM (#30222508)

      Back before memory was cheap and RAM speeds were fast, we couldn't use a full 32 bits to represent a pixel on the screen. If you did that, even at VGA resolution, you'd end up with approximately 1.2MB of memory reserved just to render to the screen. Double that if you want to have an off-screen buffer to prepare the next frame. On systems that had 8MB of RAM in total you can probably sympathize with the graphics guys when they had to skimp on bpp.

      Even until very recently, many image formats only used 24bpp. Seeing as there's no real need to go above and beyond 8 bits per color, you can save a full fourth of the total memory just cutting out the unnecessary byte. Of course, you lose something very important: the Alpha channel. Suddenly, the great cost savings you get with that extra saved byte mean little since your image now can't blend nicely with anything else.

      Our government is a 2bpp system in a 32bpp world.

    • "Free people and free nations do not make law in the dark." - so fucking true it should hurt.
  • by selven (1556643) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:20PM (#30222006)

    "We got more senators than that"

    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. Good luck to Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown and anyone else who might join them.

    • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:25PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:15PM (#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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          At least they have to vote with the party line! The Democrats here have every advantage at the moment and still can't accomplish anything, ostensibly for lack of party discipline.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Idiomatick (976696)
          The idea is that we vote on platforms not local dudes. And hopefully what comes out is better than all the double dealing and bribery that occurs if they are completely unfettered.

          Also [citation needed] I'm pretty sure there is no such rule, simply that politicians tend to vote with their party line. I know that wayyy back in the day the Whip could dish out minor punishments if people didn't vote with party lines but that's about it. I don't think this is the case anymore, people just get punished if they
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by g-lock82 (993180)
          Same here in Australia. I used to hate it, until I realised that it prevented lobby groups from buying a sole representative to do their bidding. Now they've gotta buy the whole party.
      • by laddiebuck (868690) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:28PM (#30222446)

        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. Before then, you had to be a wealthy landowner just to [i]vote[/i] -- you think there was transparency and openness?

        • by grcumb (781340) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @01:34AM (#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.

        • by bradley13 (1118935) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @10:05AM (#30226020) Homepage

          ...you had to be a wealthy landowner just to vote...

          This didn't last long, but the idea was that voters ought to have a stake in the system. There's an argument for that. The USA is very nearly to the point that more than half of the voters either pay no taxes, or receive a net payout from the federal government [cnn.com]. Once the majority can vote themselves largess at the expense of the minority, the game is over. It's only a matter of time till the corpse stops twitching.

          There is a strong argument for saying that only people who pay taxes should be allowed to vote. Anyone who receives more in benefits that they pay in should be ineligible - it ain't their money, they don't get to say how it's spent. This includes not only those who do not pay taxes, but also essentially all government employees.

      • by weston (16146) <westonsd&canncentral,org> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:01PM (#30222628) Homepage

        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.

        And the house leadership is selected by elected members of the house, who are presumably representatives of their district, given that's how they get elected. Sounds representative to me. Probably was more so before the mid 90s when party loyalty and fundraising became a bigger criteria for leadership than seniority, so if you're complaining that party politics distorts the picture, I'd agree, but it's still essentially a function of who gets elected.

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

        To the extent that this is true, it's because this is what we (as a whole) really want. Not what we say we want. We might say we want information and transparency, but frankly, even most of the attentive people I know outside the legislature simply don't pay *careful* attention. They might have hobby horses and hot-button topics, but very few of us have the stomach for careful analysis.

        We get the government we have because generally we prefer to focus on our own lives, and when we're not, we prefer entertainment and passionate expression of our general philosophies over thoughtful, nuanced, nuts-and-bolts policy discussion. And because most of us need to be *paid* to seriously research a position and then go down and talk to members of congress about it -- or talk to each other reasonably about it. No surprise the people who will pay others to do that are best represented.

        If you're one of the few people who donates to organizations that lobby and do legal work, that takes the time to cite policy research instead of simply ranting when you write your reps and senators, that understands the opposition positions and research well enough to know which of their points are respectable and which are refutable, that might even know (and be known to) some of the congressional staff by name, then congratulations, you're one of the few what I'm saying doesn't apply to.

        But for the rest of us, well, the government as it now stands is essentially a reflection of our real habits and values instead of our ideals.

      • by Lazy Jones (8403)

        Bills aren't drafted in public and debated on the floor -- they are written behind closed doors by the Congressional leadership

        Are you sure about that? It would surprise me if the situation was that much better in the US than in Europe, where bills are usually written by lobbyists or hired lawyers and often not even read by legistlators.

      • by VShael (62735)

        Bills aren't drafted in public and debated on the floor -- they are written behind closed doors by the Congressional leadership

        No, they aren't written by the Congressional leadership. They merely oversee and approve what their staff write.

    • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@o v i .com> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:36PM (#30222108) Homepage

      I wrote to Senators Durbin, and Burris. They both responded in form letter that they are all for whatever is being negotiated to stop "piracy". Apparently either they didn't read or don't care that what is really happening (from what has been leaked) is the end of Fair Use, and First Sale. Along with DRM with no way out.

      Nice to know both my Senators have our interest at heart.

      Not!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GumphMaster (772693)
        The "way out" if ACTA makes it into US (or Australian in my case) law is to cripple the very economy that the people with their fingers in the ACTA pie are claiming to protect. Don't buy DRM encrusted shite. If the company openly supports ACTA, or is known to have had a hand in writing it, then don't buy their product at all. If they want to bleat about the loss of inflated potential earnings they consider their corporate birth-right then we should cause them some actual losses to teach a lesson through
        • by sconeu (64226) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:25PM (#30222782) Homepage Journal

          Don't buy DRM encrusted shite. If the company openly supports ACTA, or is known to have had a hand in writing it, then don't buy their product at all.

          At which point the following occurs:

          [corp exec]: Senator, we're losing even more money to those Evil Content Pirates)(tm)!!!! Here's a bucketful of money. We need the death penalty for copyright infringement.

          Senator: OK.

          • Death penalty? Where's the profit in that?

            I forsee something along the lines of "Well, I remember you bailed out those banks when they were in dire straits, and now we are, and we're not even responsible for it, it's those pesky pirates, so..."

        • by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @08:49AM (#30225278)

          If the company openly supports ACTA, or is known to have had a hand in writing it, then don't buy their product at all.

          One of the (many) truly bad things about the ACTA is that it includes punishments for repeated accusations of piracy. So let's say you decide to not buy MPAA/RIAA products and say so publicly. The MPAA/RIAA could accuse you of pirating (even without any evidence whatsoever) a few times and you'd be kicked offline. So even if you aren't pirating, but are just a nuisance, they can say you are pirating, get you kicked offline and force you to spend time and money on a lawsuit to not only clear your name, but to get yourself back online. In other words, under ACTA, big media companies hold all the cards and you'd better submit to their will or else.

    • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) * on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:44PM (#30222162)
      I just wrote to my senator urging him to help these men fight this injustice. Write to yours, too.
    • by afidel (530433) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @10:00PM (#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 PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:03PM (#30222638) Homepage Journal

        Just a reminder: both of these excellent senators are considered by the media to be on the extreme far-left.

        Goes to show just how badly "framing" has warped political discussion in the US.

      • Wow. That's very respectable. The one time I contacted my representative with a long, detailed message about the financial crisis, she sent back a boiler plate response that's not even half as detailed as my message. I understand she has other people to serve but that was a real disappointment. I'm glad at least someone else has had better interaction with their representative. I hate the fact that I live in a secure Democratic town because they don't have any real competition to the seat.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Bernie Sanders is one of the few politicians I IMMENSELY RESPECT. Though I am ideologically opposed to Ron Paul, I admire his honesty and straightforwardness as well. If only the rest of the politicians were like these. Wishful thinking on my part.
    • by mellon (7048)

      I am *totally* moving to Vermont now.

  • by angry tapir (1463043) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @09:35PM (#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 shentino (1139071)

    Tag this with "suddenoutbreakofcommonsense"

  • Finally, my senators are doing something before I have to do something! God bless Vermont. In all seriousness, we need to stand up against Big Media. The morons running the RIAA and MPAA need to learn that they can't control media like they used to, times have changed. "Kick back watch it crumble See the drowning, watch the fall I feel just terrible about it That's sarcasm, let it burn ... The dinosaurs will slowly die And I do believe no one will cry I'm just fucking glad I'm gonna be There to watch th
  • by stbill79 (1227700) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @07:02AM (#30224746)
    I only vaguely recognized the name Bernie Sanders until just recently when someone pointed me to this [youtube.com] congressional hearing where he rips Greenspan a new one. Great Stuff!
  • Secrecy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by headkase (533448) on Wednesday November 25, 2009 @07:39AM (#30224886)
    Damn sleep, missed the beginning of this one. Secrecy is the antithesis of Democracy. Unless your talking about your newest super-duper kill-em-all weapon then secrecy is Evil. It hides agendas, it does not promote truth and it allows people to push their petty prejudice onto everyone. It's Evil. Whatever is decided do it in the open with all parties being on the level.

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