Ambassador Kirk: People would be “walking away from the table” if the ACTA text is made public

After attending the three day WTO Ministerial meeting in Geneva, I took the non-stop United Airlines Flight back to Washington, DC. On the airplane were a number of U.S. government officials including the head of USTR, Ambassador Ron Kirk. I had a chance to talk to Kirk about the secrecy of the ACTA agreement. He said the ACTA text would be made public, “when it is finished.” I told him it that was too late, and the public wanted the text out now, before it is too late to influence anything.

Kirk said he was aware that there were those who wanted the text public, but the issue of transparency was “about as complicated as it can get,” and Kirk didn't want people “walking away from the table,” which would likely happen if the text was public, he said.

I said that it was untrue that IPR negotiations are normally secret, mentioning as examples that drafts of the other IPR texts, including the proposed WIPO treaty for disabilities and the climate change agreement language on IPR, as well as several drafts of the FTAA text and the 1996 WIPO copyright treaties had been public. Kirk said that ACTA “was different” and the topics being negotiated in ACTA were “more complex.”

I brought up to Kirk that the USTR had shown ACTA text to dozens of corporate lobbyists and all of its trading partners in the ACTA negotiation, and the text was only secret from the public. Kirk did say USTR was discussing this issue with the White House and its trading partners, but that was about all he could say at that moment.


Updates

There have been several stories about this in the Internet press, including these:

people are not stupid

"Kirk said that ACTA “was different” and the topics being negotiated in ACTA were “more complex.”"

That is surely a way to get unpopular; the statement makes the people look stupid from thier point of view! Make the text public. "Was different" and "more complex" makes the document look like a trade of workers for corporatons, or at least another conspiricy theory.

Pointless

And while those old codgers are arguing about copyright, another million songs were downloaded in the last 2 minutes. LOL. I guess the media industry never heard of the word "futility".

arguing about copyright

Yeah, the system is broken! I like the following quote from Trent Reznor of NIN "Anyone who's an executive at a record label does not understand what the internet is, how it works, how people use it, how fans and consumers interact - no idea. I'm surprised they know how to use email. They have built a business around selling plastic discs, and nobody wants plastic discs any more. They're in such a state of denial it's impossible for them to understand what's happening... One of the biggest wake-up calls of my career was when I saw a record contract. I said, 'Wait - you sell it for $18.98 and I make 80 cents? And I have to pay you back the money you lent me to make it and then you own it? Who the f**k made that rule? Oh! The record labels made it because artists are dumb and they'll sign anything' - like I did." - I wonder if car manufactures have a same problem with aftermarket body kits, just my 2 cents.

Who'll be doing the walking?

I thought you missed a chance when you didn't press on him on the "walking away from the table" comment. This is a treaty negotiated among nation states. Are there nation states that would refuse to negotiate over ACTA if its terms were made public? Which ones? If there are other (private) parties "at the table," who are they, and why do they deserve a seat? Does the American Library Association also get a seat? Any other organizations that represent the public interest in these negotiations?

Unenforcable

If a law isn't made publicly (for a democracy), then the law cannot carry any weight. The problem is most people will fail to realize this. It is not Constitutional.

The Constiution?

>It is not Constitutional.

Neither is income tax (it's a direct tax and not properly apportioned). Neither is military invasion based on false evidence. Me thinks you don't have a clue how things work in the real world. The only rule is this: can we get away with it. Constitution...heh, some people make me laugh with the non-sense they believe in.

Enforcing the Unenforcable

Passing an unconstitutional law does not mean the government cannot enforce it. History has already proven that point.

It's just about money

This may be too obvious to state but I'll risk it. Regardless of how the entertainment industry bends and manipulates the philosophical foundations of copyright for protective measures, commercial entertainment is too large an export business, and therefore the industry too powerful, for the United States not to protect.

Other than violent games and crappy music and movies, what else does this country make anymore that humanity wants or needs? Oil is elsewhere; the future and evolution of science and technology is elsewhere; manufacturing is elsewhere; etc.

It should come as no surprise that the U.S. wants to keep the shackles of trade entertainment secret: if information and media are allowed to move freely we will lose our last leg of standing among the world's enterprises.

simple

ACTA is no more complicated than the other treaties he noted.

The MafIAA needs things kept secret because everybody sees : How badly the DMCA's anti-circumvention rules have worked for America. How young companies that started in America were destroyed by legal wars, only to witness profitable foreign corporations built upon the same ideas. How the DMCA's take-down rules have been used time and again to silence critics rather than for legitimate copyright enforcement. How France's three-strikes law traps people into poverty. etc.

In fact, the recording industry has always lied about & attacked new technology, like TiVo, VCR, cassettes, xerox, telegraph, records, etc. IP is awarded solely for the purpose of encouraging the advancement of the arts and technology. Any company that lobbies against new technology should lose the right to posses any IP.

right but so wrong...

Your basic premises are correct but you need to make sure what you say is factually correct. In France there are lots of nasty laws (must carry a gun in some US county, fellatio is illegal in Tasmania, you get the point) but if you think the three-strikes law is going to be applied in the near future you are dreaming. As soon as the first couple of cases get out of the way there will be revolt, and probably the train drivers will go on strike. The three-strikes needs to be defeated (the entertainment industry is still in the 80's) but there are few places outside the US (in the first world) where you get actual enforcement of such draconian laws.

Secrecy is for criminals.

Is this not how Nazi Germany got started. The media has too much control of the government. We need to kick their posteriors to the curb from government.

WTO is nothing short of facists

when will the U.S admit their system is broken. don't give me the excuse of it is the best and only one system we got. we can make it better. first by campaign reform and getting rid of all the lobbyists.

I am sick of this secrecy just in the name of protecting businesses intellectual property. why is it the governments job to protect these businesses IP. the government is here for the people who need them most not for these rich wall street bankers and corporate lobbyists and their board of directors.

no country should agree to whatever the WTO wants to shove down their throats.

microsoft and the movie industry are doing just fine and do not need the government for them to survive.
whatever happened to america taking in the poor and indigent. we should be ashamed of ourselves and all our greed.

America does not recognize

America does not recognize the right of private industry to circumvent the legislative process. Neither do Canadians, French, Dutch or anyone else. I would love to see how they plan on containing the fallout when this goes public. The entertainment industries, currently drowning in a sea of despair and self-pity despite historic record revenue, are going to shoot themselves in the face. Who the hell is going to spend another dollar on their garbage when they would spit in the face of Democracy in this manner?

This is not about counterfeiting or stopping large crime rings. It's about taking back control of the internet and allowing government on an international scale to wrap their hands around Freedom's throat.

Recognize? Well...

...not officially, anyway. But if this fully-formed PoS were to find itself as a rider in a bill passing through the House and/or Senate, it will get voted on along with whatever items were vetted and discussed publicly. That, I'm sure, is the plan: introduce it to WTO member governments as a pre-approved package for national codification, along with, plenty of phone calls from "interested parties" with campaign money and golf outings.

That's the US legislative process at work.

Transparency in trade talks

The rule in the US -- codified by statute -- when negotiating trade policy is that the negotiations will be "open and equitable" and that the negotiators must work toward fulfilling the "principal negotiating objective" of increasing transparency in the negotiations. See 19 U.S.C. 2901(b)(2)(3).

The heavy burden, therefore, is on the negotiators to justify any secrecy in their negotiations -- it is NOT on those who seek information about the trade talks to justify access to all relevant information.

In fact, the law prohibits the Executive Branch from entering into trade agreements (which are broadly defined) that do not make progress in meeting this transparency, and other, objectives. See 19 U.S.C. 2902(b)(2).

Complicated?

Transparency is only a complicated issue when you're being dishonest.

Absolutely.

For example, technically speaking, by the US ambassador taking part he's not only violating his oath of office, but committing a felony under US law. Luckily for him, he's doing it abroad, so he won't be arrested (not that there's much risk as he's been protected from prosecution). However, whatever he says cannot be considered to be on behalf of the US government, nor any agreement he enters into binding - he's there in a personal capacity, not an official one.

The nice part about the shenanigans, however, is that the lack of transparency makes it plain what's going on. We have parties that know full well that what they are planning runs against the will of the people that they are supposed to represent -- they simply don't want people to know what's going on. Their intent is to enter into agreements without the consent of the governed to push an agenda that their own people would be offended by, or might consider criminal.

Ultimately, this will come back to the US legislature for review... Then we'll see if anybody cares - and who's in who's pockets.

Walk away from the table...

...is perhaps exactly what all countries should do immediately. Wasn't Kirk's comment a serious indication that the negotiations are undemocratic?

What happens....

when the governments become the criminals? Conspiring against their own populations in favor of criminal corporations. The french were perhaps right, from time to time there needs to be violent revolution.

The Founding Fathers were right...

The Tree of Liberty is looking mighty thirsty.

T Bone Burnett said it best

The genius of France can be seen at a glance
And it's not in their fabled fashion scene
It's not that they're mean, or their wine or cuisine
I refer of course to the guillotine