White House Declares Copyright Treaty State Secret

Downloading supports terrorism apparently

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Still waiting for change you can believe in? Well, believe this: the White House just declared an intellectual property treaty a state secret and denied Freedom of Information Act requests asking that it reveal the details of an international treaty that could have huge effects on how information is disseminated online.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement was already being negotiated behind close doors under the Bush Administration, under the direction of the Office of the US Trade Representative. Those concerned that all but 10 of the 800-plus page document were labeled classified and clearance was only given entertainment industry lobbyists took Mr. Obama’s words about a more transparent government to heart and filed the FOIA request.

Carmen Suro Bredie, Chief FOIA Officer, issued the Trade Rep’s denial of the request citing Executive Order 12958, a 1995 order stating that material can be considered classified if “damage to the national security and the original classification authority is able to identify or describe the damage.”

So how is it exactly that the details of an intellectual property treaty are considered related to national security? Well, there are likely many answers to that, but before we answer it one possible way, let’s fire off another question, since the conspiratorial mind thinks they might be linked: 

As TechDirt’s Mike Masnick asks, Why isn’t the press covering this?

The answer, oddly, is the same as the national security question. Let’s back up. Earlier this month we reported on an MPAA-backed study linking DVD piracy to organized crime and, bet you can guess, terrorism. The study calls for governments around the world to toughen up intellectual property laws, equating piracy with counterfeiting (they’re not the same thing), and that government agencies work closely with the entertainment industry to police Internet traffic.

In effect, the study calls for a Patriot Act on behalf of the entertainment industry. It calls for a joint effort to monitor the Internet to find those who may be counterfeiting intellectual property and justifies it by suggesting there is a link between young Susie downloading a movie at home and human traffickers who help fund Islamic terrorists.

Wikileaks, an international whistleblower site, has provided links to ACTA documents made available in Japan, the EU, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Korea, Mexico, and New Zealand, and explains one clause that acts as a killer of peer-to-peer networking by criminalizing “the nonprofit facilitation of unauthorized information exchange on the Internet. This clause would also negatively affect transparency and primary source journalism sites such as Wikileaks.”

ACTA, says Wikileaks, would require the cooperation of ISPs and bans “anti-circumvention” measures, which could, in application, affect online anonymity and multi-region CD/DVD players.

Wikileaks notes the Representative behind ACTA, Howard Berman (D-CA), has top campaign contributors in Time Warner (CNN, Time), News Corp. (Fox, NY Post, Wall Street Journal), Sony, and Disney (ABC).

So possible answers to the two pressing questions: How can the White House label an intellectual property law a matter of national security? They’ve been provided with “evidence” piracy is linked to terrorism. Why isn’t the press covering it? Same people who own the entertainment, own the news.

If Obama is to make good on his promise of transparency, he needs to reverse the Bush Adminstration’s leftover Trade Rep.’s decree of state secrets and let the public see what’s in this legislation. It’s not so secret they haven’t let every developed nation and entertainment company in the world in on it.

Obama’s track record as a Senator on copyright law and government surveillance isn’t great though. The media certainly ignored his and Biden’s support of more stringent copyright law just before the election (McCain’s too; it passed unanimously in the Senate), and disappointed many fans with his continued support of warrantless wiretapping and telecom immunity. 

White House Declares Copyright Treaty State Secret
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  • http://www.lexolutionit.com Maneet Puri

    This is big news.. Denial of right to information is like violation of the fundamnetal rights of the citizens.

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