Change before obama arrives?

The ACTA treaty is intended to create copyright changes that are difficult to revise

A new international treaty is currently being worked on in secret. In addition to the USA and the EU Commission, representatives of Japan and Canada are also said to be involved in the negotiations. EU parliamentarians have not yet been involved, but have learned about the project – if at all – from the press. Nevertheless, a discussion basis that appeared in Wikileaks but remained unconfirmed was used for a "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement" (ACTA) have considerable effects.

According to paragraph 3 of the paper, for example, copyright infringement without intent to enrich should be subject to mandatory criminal sanctions – a clause that has now come to be known as the "Pirate Bay killer" is known. Internet providers are to be held liable if they do not follow through on blocking requests quickly enough – a practice that has already led to the U.S. DMCA, with many providers not following through on blocking requests at all, but blocking immediately – even if (as trials proved) they come with an absurd accusation from a Hotmail address.

The most problematic, however, could be a regulation on "cooperation between law enforcement agencies"" his. Among other reasons, because the EU Commission is working at the same time on an abolition of ordre public. That (as the FAZ feared) Sharia rulings will soon also apply in Europe is less to be expected, but a de facto standardization of copyright according to the most monopoly-friendly standard is all the more to be expected.

A Canadian newspaper even said that the treaty should allow for suspicionless control of media and electronic devices by customs and other authorities. This would be particularly disastrous for the citizens’ rights situation in the European countries, because since the Schengen Agreement customs authorities have been allowed to operate in the interior of the country. In the worst case scenario, this detour introduced a constant search readiness of laptops and MP3 players through the backdoor. Especially in connection with the fact that copyright infringements are to be prosecuted even without the request of the copyright holder, a situation has arisen in which the door has been opened to official will.

Allegedly, the agreement will be finalized by the end of the year – possibly at the upcoming G8 summit in Japan. The reason for this – as with other treaty projects – could be the uncertainty brought about by the change of U.S. president next year.

In the end, the American Congress approves such treaties, but in most cases the documents are hardly read by the representatives and senators beforehand, let alone checked exactly for legal consequences. When Congress voted on the GATT agreement in the 1990s, a single senator – Hank Brown of Colorado – went out of his way to block the nearly 30.000 pages long contract to read. When he started it, he supported GATT. When he was done with it, he vehemently opposed it. In the case of the Lisbon Treaty and the national European parliaments, the complete reading rate among the deputies was allowed to be similarly low.

The real political power therefore lies in the hands of those who formulate the treaty. In the case of ACTA, this is primarily Susan Schwab, who holds the post of United States Trade Representative (USTR). Her office is leading the negotiations with the delegations of the other countries. Although Schwab is not formally a member of the cabinet, her office is organizationally on the same level. And it is a typical spoils position that presidents fill when they come to power. Although the spoils system has weakened somewhat over the course of history, but the number of public servants replaced after taking office is still around 3 in the present day.000. George W. Bush appointed Robert Zoellick (who later succeeded Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank), then Rob Portman, and finally Susan Schwab.

Whether an Obama administration will bring about change in the area of international copyright treaties, however, depends very much on the extent to which the candidate actually fulfills his central campaign promise and is prepared to make up with lobbyists in his own party – such as Howard Berman, who is also said to have played a major role in the ACTA draft. The congressman from California was not only conspicuous for a series of extreme bills, but also received considerable money from media corporations such as Time Warner, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, Sony and Disney. In May, he spoke out against Clinton and in favor of Obama as his party’s candidate.

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