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CDT, EFF, CEA, PK, Others Criticize ACTA Copyright Treaty Draft Language

On March 22, a collection of tech advocates, non-profits and associations opposed to the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) wrote a letter (embedded below) to Ron Kirk, head of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, criticizing the reported draft language of the ACTA.

The lack of transparency around ACTA copyright treaty negotiations has received increased scrutiny from both the media and anti-censorship advocates as provisions have leaked online. Earlier this month, the European Parliament passed a resolution by a 663-13 vote calling for the European Commission, the European Union’s regulatory arm, to release a public draft of the ACTA agreement. President Obama signaled his support for the ACTA copyright treaty at a conference in DC on March 12th. New Zealand is now pushing for greater ACTA transparency as well.

This letter states that “details of the text of the proposed ACTA, and comments and proposals of national participants have apparently but unofficially been made public”. See, for example, this EU document,  a working document from the EU Secretariat, document[PDF], and document.

This letter states that “this negotiation is not primarily about counterfeiting or piracy; nor is at all about trade law. The public rationale that the treaty would not impinge on domestic law has been placed in doubt — particularly when one considers whose domestic law would be endangered.”

On this count, the letter states that the “text reveals detailed substantive attention to … The extent to which principles of inducement, newly introduced by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Grokster case, are to be accepted as supporting a separate basis for copyright liability or are a gloss on existing principles of contributory and vicarious infringement. This is not yet clear even in the United States.”

Some of this ground was covered by Supreme Court’s in June 26, 2005, MGM v. Grokster.a More detail on that case may be found in  “Supreme Court Rules in MGM v. Grokster” in TechLawJournal.  a

The letter regarding ACTA transparency also states that the “text reveals detailed substantive attention to … How technological measure anti-circumvention provisions are to be interpreted and applied, whether they will apply to access to works, whether they are to be limited to circumventions for infringing purposes, and whether account will be taken of the variations in national law, practice, and context, such as U.S. adherence to fair use and the imposition of levies under other national law.”

The signers of this letter include:

Canadian law professor Michael Geist’s ACTA coverage has been instrumental to providing details to the global community of the treaty. As he wrote yesterday:

The leak of the full consolidated ACTA text will provide anyone interested in the treaty with plenty to work with for the next few weeks.  While several chapters have already been leaked and discussed (see posts on the Internet and Civil Enforcement chapters, the definitional chapter, the institutional arrangements chapter, and international coooperation chapter), the consolidated chapter provides a clear indication of how the negotiations have altered earlier proposals (see this post for links to the early leaks) as well as the first look at several other ACTA elements.

Nate Anderson over at Ars Technica also wrote an update on the current status of the ACTA copyright treaty earlier this week. As Mike Masnick blogged at TechDirt, “EU Negotiators Insist That ACTA Will Move Forward And There’s Nothing To Worry About.” Further, as Masnick points out, ACTA is set to cover intellectual property, not just copyrights or trademarks, referring to a post at KEI which features leaked draft document of ACTA.

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The past and future of .com: Bill Clinton on the first Internet Presidency [#25years]

How much has the online world changed in the past quarter of a century? In the years since Synbolics.com was registered, hundreds of millions of websites have followed that first domain name. According to the VeriSign Domain Name Industry Report, at the end of 2009 there were 192 million domain name registrations across all of the Top Level Domain Names (TLDs).

Of those, .com continues to have the highest base. “The world we live in today is the most interdependent in history,” said former President Bill Clinton, speaking within the Reagan building in Washington D.C. last week at the Policy Impact Forum. “The real question is what can we do through the present state of the Internet to improve the path we’re on.”

Clinton was introduced by VeriSign president Mark McLaughlin as the “first Internet President,” a reasonable contention given the explosive growth of the online world during his terms in office. As McLaughlin pointed out, under Mr. Clinton Internet governance passed to ICANN and the first White House website. (For those interested, you can still hear Socks meow.) McLaughlin and others blogged about 25 years of .com on Facebook.

Clinton made his comments on the day that the FCC’s National Broadband Plan was released, putting the question of how connectivity, innovation and speech should be stimulated (or regulated) into clear relief. Clinton suggested that access framework proposed by the FCC might be needed.

“In America, we opted for a degulation approach in the Internet and cellphone business,” he said, “but a lot of our competitorsnow have better cell phone coverage than we do because they had some regulation to guarantee a framework of universal access.”

In the present, “I’m worried about unequal access,” Clinton said. “We devoted 870 million a year to education technology. We developed the E-Rate so that information could be more publicly shared.”

“In general, our entrepreneurial approach is the best one,” said Clinton, but “there are limits to it and sometimes we need a framework to make sure the markets can continue to grow by having more universal access. So I’m hoping the FCC proposals will do that.”

Clinton talked about how the Internet has been indispensable to the work of his foundation. He also focused on the importance of information technology to his administration.

In 1996, then-President Clinton issued Executive Order 13011 on federal information technology, which ordered the heads of all federal agencies to “refocus information technology management to support directly their strategic missions,” create agency CIOs and “cooperate in the use of information technology to improve the productivity of Federal programs.”

When the decision  came to support as a medium, said Clinton, “the Internet was either going to be to the private reserve of a few or to the positive good of all. All the decisions that came were a result of seeing in its infancy the staggering potential we see today.” Clinton also gave credit to Al Gore, who “took unmerciful abuse about a claim he never made.”

Clinton chose to highlight a proposal from President Obama and the Secretary of State for a global health initiative that will leverage information technology. “There has to be a limit to ability to wealthy countries helping poor countries by treating discrete health problems,” he said. “Sooner or later, they have to have [functioning] health systems.  In the end, you have to give people the ability to support themselves.”

When considering potential answers to that immense challenge, does the Internet have anything to do with solutions? One area where the Internet has proven its utility is enabling distributed fundraising. Clinton himself said that over half of donations made to victims of the Indonesian tsunami were made online.

In 2010, Clinton said that MassiveGood.com, could a micropayment fundraising model where every time a consumer buys a plane ticket, reserves a hotel room or rents a car, they can choose to donate a small amount to AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria or childrens’ healthcare. “None of this would be conceivable without the Internet,” said Clinton.

“We’re going to have instantaneous posting of all donations and expenditures,” he said. “That’s what we did after the tsunami, with stunning effects in reducing corruption and increasing transparency.”

Clinton took some time to talk about both healthcare, the issue of the day, and climate change, perhaps the issue of the decade. “There are four countries which signed the Kyoto protocoal,” said Clinton: Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the UK. Clinton asserted that was because of the way that they consume and produce energy. ” A wealthy country has to have a new source of jobs every 5-8 years, he said. “The only way can be distributed is through the adequate use of IT. In the years ahead, we ought to do whatever we can increase access, compress time, improve connectivity.” ABC News’ Julie Percha reported more on Clinton’s talk at the Tech Forum, focusing on his remarks on healthcare.

Clinton also issued a challenge to those in the audience that work in technology: “What is the role of IT in dealing with the capacity problems of the poor and the rigidity problems of the wealthy?

What is necessary to ensure open global access? “First of all, you can’t if nations disagree,” he said. “If they decide to control access, they have some ability to do it. Look at the role tech played at bringing to light what happened in the Iranian election.” Clinton suggested too that the audience consider the impact of cell phones in poor countries. “For every 10% increase of cellphone usage in poor countries, they gain .6% to GDP,” said Clinton, citing a recent mobile research report.

In looking back at the importance of the Internet, Clinton said that “the potential for impact has gone far beyond what I expected. On balance, it’s an instrument of freedom, not repression.”

The former President offered some insight into his use of technology during a question and answer with McLaughlin after his keynote. When asked what his three favorite websites were, Clinton chose political ones: Politico, the Huffington Post and FireDogLake. Clinton affirmed the substantive contributions that websites can make, although “don’t have to do what newspapers have to do every day,” as “some only have to have three serious articles a week.” Clinton said that he’s “worried about the ability to maintain any newspaper” in the years ahead.

Clinton also fessed up to his favorite device: an iPhone, “because I can get everything on it.” He said he tried to stay away from the BlackBerry “because I’m still obsessive,” sharing in the process that former President George H. W. Bush was “constantly doing email.”

Kara Swisher from All Things Digital was also on hand at the 25 Years of .Com Tech Impact Forum, where she moderated a panel on the future of Web technology. She recorded a video of the Q&A after the keynote that can be viewed at Boomtown, in “Bill Clinton talks about his Internet legacy.”

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