Dear President Obama: About this ACTA secrecy thing

Dear President Obama,

I am writing this open letter to you in the hopes that you might be able to explain why it is that the United States Government is so actively trying to hide all information regarding the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

I remember when you were elected as the president of your great country that I, like a lot of people suddenly had high hopes for the United States after the dark years of the Bush Administration. You see even though I might be a Canadian the fact that for the first time in its history your country saw past the color barrier and elected a black president. That, on top of your election platform, gave not only your country great pause but the rest of the world as well.

But increasingly the hopes and dreams of your election seem to becoming more of an illusion. I’m not referring to your recent healthcare victory but rather your government’s stance on matters that are going to have far ranging effects on the world as a whole.

Sure everyone is pre-occupied with your recent discussions regarding the nuclear issue which I must say is providing great cover for what is potentially the most far ranging slaughter of copyright and intellectual property laws we have ever seen. Yet your government is doing everything it can to make sure that any agreements reached remain a secret.

This from a government that promised its people, and by extension the people of the world, that there would be a new transparency with your government but increasingly we seem to be finding it is actually quite the opposite.

Nowhere is this more evident than when the subject of ACTA comes up as James Love recently found when he requested under your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) only to be told that documents pertaining to ACTA were considered state secrets (pdf of denial letter)

Today we received this letter from the White House, Office of the United States Trade Representative. Our FOIA request was denied on the grounds that the documents are “information that is properly classified in the interest of national security pursuant to Executive Order 12958.”

As well as Canada’s esteemed Professor of Internet and E-Commerce Law Michael Geist pointed out today that the US is the primary force behind the increasing effort to pull all future discussions surround ACTA back into the shadows

The text of the treaty can be released without regard for the level of agreement on substantive issues. Yet unlike most other ACTA countries that have called for transparency without condition, the U.S. has set conditions that effectively seeks to trade its willingness to release the text for gains on the substance of the text. The only thing needed to reach consensus on sharing the text with the public is for the U.S. to give the go-ahead. This statement indicates they will only do so for a price.

I understand that the entertainment industry are really big contributors to election campaigns but they are also the driving force behind the original drafting of ACTA and its subsequent adoption by various friendly governments around the world – Canada included. However President Obama this self-same group of global entertainment conglomerates are using ACTA to perform an end-run around the laws of your country.

As I pointed out in an earlier post ACTA as an international trade agreement can be used as a great big club against countries who decide at some point that t he rights of the actual creators and the consumers are more important than the entertainment industry’s right to hold all content hostage. That includes the country that you are president of Mr. Obama.

This so-called trade agreement has the potential to forever change the copyright landscape and yet the United States Government sees fit to hide all the dealing to do with it behind a shroud of secrecy. Why is this President Obama especially in light of your promise of change and transparency?

If there was ever a time, ever a reason, for openness and total transparency ACTA is that time. If there was ever a time to keep your word to the American people ACTA is that time.

So how about it President Obama – can we have some of the truth and openness? Or does the entertainment industry truly hold the keys to power?

Sincerely,

Steven Hodson – concerned citizen of Canada who is about to get his rights stomped all over.