One of the stupidest lines of commentary following Obama’s opposition SOPA and PIPA was that, while it showed how in-touch he was with the generation raised on free content, it wasn’t going to play well among the media industry scions who fund the Democratic Party. The assumption behind this kind of thinking is that Hollywood would punish the President for his insufficient piety toward the internet lockdown lobby by taking their money to politicians whose totalitarian tendencies were more overt. But it begs the question, to whom exactly? Republicans? Please, they’d sooner eat at Bob Evans. Aside from stool pigeons like Bob Goodlatte and Lamars Smith and Alexander, it’s hard to find an ear sympathetic to Big Content in the party that’s constantly grousing about the mainstream media. The Bush administration saw no major intellectual property protection measures enacted save for one at the very end of his term that created a copyright czar (who were the Republican sponsors of that House bill? Surprise! Goodlatte and Smith.). And say, how’s that cabinet-level line to the RIAA working out?
Seriously though, if I were Zach Horowitz or Edgar Bronfman I’d be pretty pleased with Obama’s job performance. Mere hours after Wikipedia, Reddit, Google and thousands of other websites participated in an online protest against SOPA, and four days after Obama announced his own opposition to the bill, news hit the wires that the long arm of the law finally caught up with Megaupload after a two-year international investigation headed up by the FBI and Justice Department, and the takedown has already had collateral effects. More broadly, domain name seizures are now more frequent than ever and he signed on to a global intellectual property enforcement treaty for which he claims Senate ratification is unnecessary.
Essentially ACTA imposes the terms of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act on the participating nations, other than that there are a lot of grey areas in the treaty (a good explanation as to what it could actually do can be found here). Because ACTA’s terms are more or less congruent with current US law, Obama claims he doesn’t need to put it to a Senate vote. For this reason, Darrell Issa has described ACTA as “more dangerous than SOPA” in that it subverts congressional authority to regulate foreign trade and intellectual property.
At The Atlantic, Alexander Fumas explains some of the objections to ACTA:
… It is worth noting that the negotiations throughout most of the process were highly secret with negotiators forced to sign non-disclosure agreements, a fact that, according to one cable, made even some of the negotiating parties uncomfortable. There were few avenues for public or civil-society input. Meanwhile many U.S. based multinational corporations and their interest groups, including the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, Sony, and Time Warner were consulted via formal USTR advisory boards.
Have a look at the list of signatories and two things will become abundantly clear. First, this treaty is not about counterfeiting because the major countries with counterfeiting problems have not signed it, namely China, Indonesia and others in southeast Asia. Second, the majority of the signatories are countries with a robust market for American entertainment; Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the EU, which lends credence to the idea that the treaty was crafted for the sake of Hollywood and large media conglomerates.
As for Obama’s promise to veto SOPA and PIPA, which are merely tabled not defeated, contre the jubilant internet’s chest-thumping, well, Obama said he wouldn’t detain Americans indefinitely without due process either.