TPP: Biggest Threat to Global Internet Since ACTA?

This article was co-authored by Maira Sutton and Katitza Rodriguez of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Its original version can be found here.

The United States and ten governments from around the Pacific region are meeting yet again to hash out the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP) on May 15-24 in Lima, Peru. The TPP is one of the worst global threats to the Internet since ACTA. Since negotiations have been secretive from the beginning of the process, advocates seeking to learn more about the agreement have been relying on a leaked draft [PDF] of the treaty from February 2011. Based on 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 US 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 US copyright rules: it does not export the many balances and exceptions under US law that favor the public interest and act as safety valves in limiting rightsholders’ protections.

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 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, it will also restrict the possibility for countries to introduce more balanced copyright laws in the future.

This strategy may end up harming more proportionate laws in countries such as Chile, where a judicial order is required for ISPs to be held liable for copyright infringement or to 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.

Film, music and other content industries can and will continue to use their economic and political power to get laws that protects their interests. They did it with SOPA and ACTA, and now it's happening with TPP [es]. It's going to be a challenge to defeat these policies, but users 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, to analyze, question, and probe any initiatives to regulate the Internet. The secrecy must be stopped once and for all.

Digital rights advocacy groups around the world are working to change the TPP process and bring users’ concerns to the table. Users in any country can join a campaign led by Canadian NGO OpenMedia by clicking here. Users in the US can join EFF's campaign, directed at US Congress members, which calls for the immediate release of the text of the TPP and demands that this process become democratic and transparent.

Below is EFF's 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.



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