A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

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ACTA: A Treaty by Any Other Name

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By Ryan Morrison

Grab your pitchforks and torches, folks, it’s time once again for the internet to get angry! It was barely over a week ago that the web went dark in protest of SOPA and PIPA, evoking a grass roots movement unlike any other. Millions of angry citizens called, e-mailed, or petitioned their representatives to pull support from the two bills, and many did just that. So, alright! We win!

Well, actually, we don’t. Not yet, anyway. We may be an angry mob, but we’re also much less experienced down the rabbit hole of the political wonderland that our representatives call home. Allow me to introduce the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Imagine a version of SOPA or PIPA, agreed to on an international level.

Since it was made public by Wikileaks in 2008, there have been strong opponents of ACTA, but far fewer than the multitudes who railed against SOPA or PIPA. The best-known piece to have come out against ACTA is a 2010 letter signed by over 75 legal academics, including New York Law School’s own Professor David Johnson.

In recent weeks, a large number of online protestors came forward, begging the president not to sign ACTA, but turns out he had already signed it last October — (whoops! A little late guys!) —  at a signing ceremony in Tokyo.  Also in attendance and signing on:  heads of state from Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea.

In addition, as I’m writing this article, there are reports that ACTA was just ratified by 22 European nations with the rest expected to follow shortly. This has led to many large-scale protests (some Polish Parliament members even showed up in Guy Fawkes masks) throughout the continent.

With ACTA signed into law by President Obama, American protestors, realizing they were a little late to the protest party, claim, in effect, that the party ain’t over yet.  Petitions and articles are cropping up, questioning the constitutionality of President Obama signing ACTA with no intention of letting Congress ratify it.

The issue comes down to this:  Does President Obama need this “treaty” ratified by Congress as protestors claim, or is this an “executive agreement” within his power to sign into law as the administration claims? Plenty of opinions out there. (see here, here, and here).  LASIS sticks to  the facts.   (more…)

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