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Internet advocates say the TPP is the biggest threat yet to open web


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Closed-door meetings mean no one knows for sure how damaging the final treaty will be


Tomorrow in Lima, representatives from 11 countries are gathering to hammer out something called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It's an international treaty, and the latest entry in the ongoing battle between copyright holders and the open web. Already, the treaty has been compared to SOPA and ACTA, with the Electronic Frontier Foundation describing it as the biggest threat to the global web in years. As in previous years, they're raising the alarm, and hoping that the global outcry will be enough to shoot down the treaty.


The biggest red flags in the TPP are familiar from previous agreements — the inflated penalties, the prohibition on even temporary copies of protected intellectual property (IP), all the worst parts of the DMCA — but the larger concerns are how little we actually know. The negotiations are all secret, with only a small advisory committee kept in the loop on what's proposed. The public is only aware of the ACTA-like provisions because of a leak last summer that unveiled an early draft, but otherwise we'd still be in the dark.

Like a growing number of international trade agreements, the TPP is being negotiated behind closed doors, with nothing made public until all parties are agreed on the final result. It's a good method for hammering out tariffs and grappling with national interests, but it's a troubling way to manage web freedom. As EFF's Maira Sutton put it, "There just isn't a reason why copyright should be in a trade agreement like this." But increasingly, this is how the rules of the global internet are being written.


The effects of the partnership are complex but far-reaching. In US terms, the largest target is the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and its provisions dictating how legally responsible ISPs are for what happens on their networks. The TPP would enshrine the DMCA rules on the international stage. Any country that found itself in violation could face sanctions, as decided by an international adjudication panel — potentially a dealbreaker for future far reaching IP reform. Other possible provisions would strengthen legal penalties for breaking DRM, and potentially add a new set of laws governing the jailbreaking of phones.

But the biggest concern for reformists is just getting a seat at the table. For the intellectual property section, the only non-government interests allowed are the members of the Industry Trade Advisory Committee, 15 representatives from legacy interests like the RIAA and pharmaceutical industry groups. AT&T and Verizon both sent representatives, but web-native companies like Google and Facebook are nowhere to be found. The closest thing to an internet defender is Mark Chandler, general counsel of Cisco, but even he takes a backseat to representatives from Zippo and GE.

That's infuriating for web freedom advocates, but it's not uncommon given the process. International trade agreements tend to follow the logic of mercantilism, with each country protecting its own national interests. When they're negotiating commodity tariffs, that means protecting a specific resource, whether it's Italian olive oil or Argentine beef, and arranging trade rules to benefit it. It's not an egalitarian logic, but it's the way international trade has proceeded for hundreds of years. The TPP just extends it to intellectual property. It would mean protecting Hollywood content the same way we protect dairy farmers or car manufacturers.




But for many experts, like Sean Flynn, who examines international agreements at American University's Washington College of Law, it's not clear if this worldview still makes sense. "Where do pharmaceutical companies really reside?" Flynn points out. "The companies themselves exist everywhere. It's the same with internet companies, with every modern company. There is a representation of interests, but it's not clear that it's national interests." In the current model, Hollywood copyrights are treated as a national interest and the value of the open web is left as an abstraction.

It doesn't have to be this way. Before 2006, most international IP talks used a different system, a multilateral process that publicized proposals and let NGOs weigh in — but after high-profile defeats like SOPA, the copyright lobby has shifted its efforts to closed, bilateral talks. ACTA was the first attempt, instituting DMCA-style copyright rules through the US, Europe and Australia. After the European Parliament rejected ACTA last summer, lobbyists turned to the TPP as a way to export the rules without Europe's approval. The leaked version contains many of the same proposals — but this time they're being pitched to pacific rim countries like Malaysia and Singapore instead of the more libertarian EU.

If the TPP passes, the effect could be largely the same. The US and partner countries would be shackled into our current copyright rules through international treaties, potentially pulled into international tribunals any time we want to change our digital copyright laws. But more than that, it would establish this kind of closed-door agreement as the most powerful standard for web governance. As Flynn puts it, "Is this agenda going to be interrupted or was ACTA going down just a little blip?"

Source: The Verge

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What Is TPP? The Biggest Global Threat to the Internet Since ACTA

The United States and ten governments from around the Pacific are meeting yet again to hash out the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) on May 15-24 in Lima, Peru. The TPP is one of the worst global threats to the Internet since ACTA. Since the negotiations have been secretive from the beginning, we mainly know what's in the current version of this trade agreement because of a leaked draft [PDF] from February 2011. Based upon that text, some other leaked notes, and the undemocratic nature of the entire process, we have every reason to be alarmed about the copyright enforcement provisions contained in this multinational trade deal.
The TPP is likely to export some of the worst features of U.S. copyright law to Pacific Rim countries: a broad ban on breaking digital locks on devices and creative works (even for legal purposes), a minimum copyright term of the lifetime of the creator plus seventy years (the current international norm is the lifetime plus fifty years), privatization of enforcement for copyright infringement, ruinous statutory damages with no proof of actual harm, and government seizures of computers and equipment involved in alleged infringement. Moreover, the TPP is worse than U.S. copyright rules: it does not export the many balances and exceptions that favor the public interest and act as safety valves in limiting rightsholders’ protection. Adding insult to injury, the TPP's temporary copies provision will likely create chilling effects on how people and companies behave online and their basic ability to use and create on the Web.

The stated goal of the TPP is to unite the Pacific Rim countries by harmonizing tariffs and trade rules between them, but in reality, it's much more than that. The "intellectual property" chapter in this massive trade agreement will likely force changes to copyright and patent rules in each of the signatory countries. Accepting these new rules will not just re-write national laws, but will also restrict the possibility for countries to introduce more balanced copyright laws in the future. This strategy may end up harming other countries' more proportionate laws such as Chile, where a judicial order is required for ISPs to be held liable for copyright infringement and take down content. Such systems better protect users and intermediaries from disproportionate or censorship-driven takedowns. If the final TPP text forces countries to adopt a privatized notice and takedown regime, this could imply the end of the Chilean system. It would also undermine canada's notice and notice regime.

The content industry can and will continue to buy and lie to get their way to get laws that protects their interests, and what they want more than anything is for us to remain passively ignorant. They did it with SOPA, ACTA, and now it's TPP [ESP]. It's going to be a challenge to defeat these policies, but we can do it. The TPP is slated for conclusion this October, but our goal is to get the worst of these copyright provisions out of it. The way to fight back is to show that we will not put up with this: to demand an open transparent process that allows everyone, including experts from civil society members, to analyze, question, and probe any initiatives to regulate the Internet. The secrecy must be stopped once and for all.

Take this action and join over 26,000 people to send a message to your elected representatives. Let's call on Congress to demand for the immediate release of the text of the TPP, and make this process become democratic and transparent once and for all.

Below is our infographic highlighting the most problematic aspects of TPP. Please spread the word about how this agreement will impact you and your country. Right-click and save the image for the PNG file, or you can download the PDF version below. Remix it, build upon it, and get the word out. Let's protect and defend the Internet from this secret trade deal.

action-1c-2_0.png(Not in the US? Go here.)


Source: Gizmodo

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