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Senator Wyden Demands ACTA Goes Before Congress 78

Fluffeh writes "As recently covered here, EU countries are starting to drop ACTA support. Now, long-time opponent of the secretly negotiated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, Sen. Ron Wyden introduced an amendment to a Senate 'jobs bill' that would force ACTA to come before Congress for approval. His second amendment tries to force a change (PDF) in how the whole process around such treaties is handled. Right now, the U.S. attempts to keep its negotiating positions a secret. What vital national security interests could be at stake if the public knew USTR was promoting 'graduated response' laws or proposing changes in ISP liability? Wyden doesn't believe there are any."
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Senator Wyden Demands ACTA Goes Before Congress

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:07AM (#39426105)

    That's My Senator!!!

    And I couldn't be prouder!!

    • That's My Senator!!!

      And I couldn't be prouder!!

      I wish I had the mod points to rep this... sadly I can't say the same thing about mine.

    • by ZeroSumHappiness ( 1710320 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:16AM (#39426245)

      Seriously Wyden. Can we clone him about 15 times? (Don't want a complete monoculture.) I tend to agree with most of his positions and where I don't he has valid reasons to choose a position I don't necessarily back.

    • by dainbug ( 678555 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:19AM (#39426265) Journal
      :( Mine either, Senator Hatch still can't define "due process."
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:38AM (#39426511)

      Some times I wonder if Oregon congress critters are the only ones voted in for their surplus of intelligence.

    • by Kaitiff ( 167826 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:55AM (#39426729) Homepage

      I had no idea we had any senators left that could think for themselves.. unless of course this is another 'I need more money to keep quiet' kind of thing. You can be sure MAFIAA has 'contacted' his office with all the noise he's making that sure to cost them billions. Regardless I find it heartening to see something actually being done FOR us in gov't instead of TO us, or AGAINST us. Us being 'those of them that are not on a BOD raping profits from individuals'.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Could you ask him to reintroduce it as a standalone bill, not just slap it on the side of an unrelated bill?
      • by jesseck ( 942036 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @10:37AM (#39427293)

        Could you ask him to reintroduce it as a standalone bill, not just slap it on the side of an unrelated bill?

        That's how you get something like this to pass, though- riders help bills that could not pass on their own merit (too many Senators will vote against it) pass by attaching them to a bill the Senate will pass. It's the same tactic used by the *AAs for Internet censorship- attach the rider to an anti-child pornography bill, and who will vote against it?

        • by yurtinus ( 1590157 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @11:40AM (#39428053)
          Which is exactly the problem. Anything worth voting into law must be able to stand on its own merit.
          • Exactly - that is one of the many simple ways to change the way Washington/gov't works. No more "hidden" general fund taxes merged with use taxes (example water bills). Each bill stands on its own merit. End of gerrymandering by using towns/neighborhoods as the smallest "building blocks" in composing a congressional district.
          • by Yakasha ( 42321 )

            Which is exactly the problem. Anything worth voting into law must be able to stand on its own merit.

            Stand in front of who? Congress?

            THAT is the problem.

            Why do you think campaign finance reform is such a joke?

  • Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:18AM (#39426257) Journal

    On the one hand I am happy to see anything that tries put sun shine on the political process. In a democratic republic I think its reprehensible that how much of this takes place in secret. The public has a right know.


    One of the biggest things I think is broken about our current political process is the lack of atomicity in the legislative process. There should be no such thing as "Job's bill" or "Omnibus", etc. It lets a few people tie unpopular ideas to the necessary business of the nation. Legislation should be simple and cover a single topic. That way each idea can be evaluated on its own merit. IE you don't have Financial Reform, you have bill to require minimum reserve assets value at a commercial bank, bill to classify assets that may be used as reserve assets, bill determine the rate adjustment that may be made on a revolving credit account within a reporting period etc. These bills could naturally be brought to the floor and each could get a quick upper or down vote. The public would be able to find who voted on what when by searching easily.

    Unrelated crap would not be bundled as riders. It would prevent the I am going to veto/block any legislation that contains X, oh so we can't ever pass any part of budget kind of grid lock we haven now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That sounds like a really great idea in theory, but in practice I don't know how you'd implement it. Laws are like interpreted computer code: when it's ambiguous, it'll break at run-time. I can't figure out how you'd come up with a legislative algorithm for determining if everything in a bill is about "the same thing".

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Much agreed. Oftentimes this happens as a form of compromise, IE we'll give you law X, in exchange for law Y. Now, within the actual budgeting process this makes some sense, because you have to arrive at a fiscally solvent number, so oftentimes its tradeoffs of tax breaks vs spending, etc. But for law, as in "you could go to jail for this", there is no place for such negotiation. Something is either reprehensibly immoral and should be punished, or it is not. Whether or not you support ACTA should be en

      • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

        by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:38AM (#39426503)

        Now, within the actual budgeting process this makes some sense, because you have to arrive at a fiscally solvent number, so oftentimes its tradeoffs of tax breaks vs spending, etc.

        Yeah I'm pretty sure that hasn't happened in a few decades. It's mostly been we'll cut taxes AND you can spend more. Recently it's been we'll raise taxes by 1% and you can spend 5000% more.

        • What's interesting is that many states (both red and blue) have "balanced budget" or similar laws and/or constitutional requirements, and manage to get by just fine.

    • Amen, I have been saying that for years, but it would never happen. It wouldn't allow crooked politicians the ability to get things passed that would never pass on their own merit.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Never going to happen. This corrupt mechanism is needed so politicians can pass laws their owners paid for, even if it's against the interest of the rest of the population.

      • It will never happen unless both left and right demand it. This is one of those areas that the Tea Party and OWS agree. Other examples include ACTA, SOPA, etc... This can be pushed. And it can happen.
    • The only possible mechanism to enforce that would be a body of legislators who insist on it and will block bills that include unrelated riders. Know any of those?
        Legislation is a process of negotiation.

    • Unfortunately, I'm afraid this presents a whole new set of problems. I live in a country with a similar system and the first problem is you've got a bazillion different acts, bills and whatnot, quite often contradictory because even the legislators are lost and forget which bill regulates what. The other problem can be explained by the following example: a few years ago the government here (the prime minister and his ministers) proposed a tax reform comprising of three separate bills. Two raised taxes for t
      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        You might not have liked the outcome but to me it sounds like the process worked.

        The representatives and the executive were able to agree that raising taxes was needed.
        They raised the taxes.

        They were not able to agree that special tax rates for the poor were a good idea.
        They did not create a special tax rate for the poor.

        The idea that we need to levy a new tax or raise an existing one is a separate matter from should we provide tax relief to a specific group. They should IMHO be treated independently. We

        • The actual problem is not whether I agree with tax cuts for the poor or not. The problem here was that the three bills were a package, which was supposed to introduce a comprehensive tax reform. The president blocked one of them just to piss off people in order to lower the prime minister's party chances for re-election (I didn't support any of the two parties, since we have more than just two ;) ). Remember that this was an election year so it's hard to believe that he had anything else in mind, especially
    • by Anonymous Coward

      What's wrong with having a SAFE Port Act (keeping ports safe, gotta be good) with a rider that bans online gambling (UIGEA)?

      Ports and gambling, everyone can see the connection there. And Bill Frist who added the rider got paid $50,000 by Harrah's (brick and mortar) casinos - purely coincidental that Harrah's share price went up 20% after the UIGEA was passed. Everybody wins ... er ....

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      You will just have to accept that there are only so many hours in the day and with the US governments penchant of putting everything through a legislative process including some of the most petty and nothing things. There is straight insufficient time to discuss everything individually.

      It's the whole US capitalistic bullshit of performance based in everything (clearly a horrible failure in many areas), so politicians get measured by how many pieces of legislation they introduce and how many they get thro

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:20AM (#39426277) Journal
    Prematurely revealing the secret ACTA designation of intellectual property as a 'national security asset granted the protection of the US strategic air command's full deterrent and offensive capabilities' would definitely have national security implications! Just think of how awkward it could get if we told the world about our plan to launch thermonuclear first strikes against suspected piracy-abetting datacenters...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But that's the thing, they don't mind telling 'the world' at least in so far as that means 'foreign governments' - because what they're trying to keep secret is explicitly what they are talking to the rest of the world's governments about. It's the citizenry that they don't want to know.

    • by kanweg ( 771128 )

      No strike necessary. All you have to do is to turn the cooling off.


  • corporate security (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:33AM (#39426445)

    For the many politicians who think the proper role of government is to prop up corporate profits, corporate income security interests *are* national security interests.

    And certain corporations have determined that letting the public in on what's going on is definitely not in their interests. Those rebellious citizens might demand the politicians to make treaties that benefit citizens' rights rather than corporate profits. We can't allow that in a corpratocracy.

    • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

      Here here. Business should have *some* say in trade negotiations, however, it seems like they been writing them whole-cloth.

      When the tariff schedule, when printed out, is the size of two Encyclopedia Britannica end-to-end, free trade is a bit of a misnomer.

      • Why should they have any more say then the other voters? Do retirees get to write laws about social security benefits?

  • Is Sen. Wyden describing what ACTA is actually doing? No? Then the jussive subjunctive is appropriate (in the US). "Senator Wyden Demands ACTA Go Before Congress" would be better a better headline. For me, it's not just a nitpick; it's a matter of clarity. I had difficulty understanding what the intent of the sentence was until I read the summary.
    • Obtuse, ungrammatical and misleading headlines are par for the course. There's an army of morons writing them. Often the articles are almost as bad.

  • by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @09:45AM (#39426587)

    In these threads some guy usually says that the President has to send a treaty to Congress for it to be valid, therefore Obama is abusing his power, usurping Congressional Authority, and raping kittens by not sending ACTA to Congress. This is false, and based on the poster not understanding what's going on.

    What's going on is that everything ACTA demands is already part of US Law. Obama can already seize your shit if he thinks it's counterfeit. It's called asset forfeiture, and it's already in the US Code. As is literally everything else in the treaty. When he does so the people judging whether the US is in compliance have to say "Yes, that guy totally had his shit seized because it was counterfeit." Therefore Obama doesn't care whether ACTA is formally ratified and made part of US Law, he already has all the powers he needs.

    Thus Wyden has to resort to maneuvers like this if he wants to stop ACTA, and Wyden's maneuver probably won't be very effective at all. Because even if Congress does not vote to ratify the treaty we're still in compliance unless Congress also insists on amending all the copyright rules currently in place.

    As a political tactic it has some uses. The biggest is that it establishes there's resistance to the business community's insane copyright/patent demands from some folks with clout, and future ACTAs will be designed to appeal to those other groups. It's unlikely (that ordinary Poles will understand the particular wrinkle of US Law I just explained, so Polish politicians are all answering the question "Why should we ratify ACTA, even the US didn't ratify ACTA?" The potential drawback here is that if Wyden gets his ratification vote he's likely to lose, because this isn't just about copyright. It's also about fake golfclubs, cars, etc. You don't want to be the guy on the side of fake chinese golf clubs/antibiotics/toothpaste/etc. in an election year.

    But if you think there is literally any chance of ACTA not applying to your American ass, I have news for you: It already does.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      When you consider the implications of this becoming international law, it's not a little thing. We effectively legitimize using our military to "protect" the company who is selling a song in China or Poland, but that song got downloaded without payment. There is a HUGE difference between confiscating our own citizens' computers vs "police action" and confiscating property in other countries. Some might thing spreading our corruption to others isn't so bad, but it has significant impact on our attempts to

    • by Shadowhawk ( 30195 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @10:20AM (#39427051)
      What you say may be true, but I don't think he expects to be able to change existing copyright law. IMHO he has two aims; to make ratification of treaties require Senate approval (as specified in the Constitution) rather than Presidential fiat; and requires that negotiations in these treaties be conducted in the open (anything we share with other countries must be made public). Yes, I RTFA, but I'm not new here.
      • Obama's not claiming the treaty is Ratified. That's a very specific Constitutional process which requires a vote in Congress explicitly saying "treaty x is ratified." None of his people ever have. He's claiming we've "Acceded" to the treaty because everything required to enforce was already on the books. That just means all the laws are passed so we're complying, and it's clearly true. The whole point of ACTA is to make everyone else hjave the same BS draconian laws we do, therefore it would be somewhat ast

    • by Anonymous Coward

      A similar argument is often used in the EU ("it doesn't change anything"). There is however at least one very important extra things to consider: once you ratify ACTA and it enters into force, you no longer can change anything about your laws in a way that contravenes ACTA without unanimous consent by all ACTA signatories. You basically paint yourself into a corner.

      Another point is that ACTA includes an obligation to encourage private enforcement by industry stakeholders (ACTA Articles 27.2 & 8.1). In o

    • so, if they already have all this power, WHY ASK FOR IT AGAIN?

      this does not make sense.

      you don't go trying to get new laws made if you have all the teeth you need, already.

      your post sounds informative but it is not. it does not pass the smell test.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        They AREN'T "asking for it again", they're asking for every other first world country to do it too.

      • The AC's got it right. They aren't asking for more power to screw with Americans. They've got that.

        They're asking for more power to screw with Poles.

    • You argument is specious.

      That I have closed my door does not give you the right to superglue my door shut without my permission.

      That congress has passed laws does not give the president the right to sign a treaty that lock those (or similar laws) on the book permanently without congress' permission.

      Stopping ACTA becoming a formally accepted treaty is a first step in making sure the laws in question can be fixed.

      • Your analogy is specious. A US Law is not a simple thing to change, especially unilaterally. No single person or group can close the door unilaterally.

        To make it work we need a bicameral door-opening committee, and a door-opening Executive Officer separate from the committee. Once the committee has voted to close the door, and the executive agreed, is the executive overstepping his bounds by telling everyone else "Don't worry, the door won't open?"

        As for stopping ACTA, in the US that battle is lost. Wyden's

  • ..but better late than never.

    I'm heartened by the fact that he didn't stop with having the treaty go before Congress, but also attempted to have the entire process reviewed.

    In Australia, a Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade official went before Parliament and defended what he called (wait for it -- ) an 'open, inclusive and transparent process' involving 150 stakeholders. 150 out of 22 million, go figure.

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