May 9, 2012

TPP Negotiations in Dallas this Week

If you liked PIPA and SOPA, you'll probably love the TPP. But only the participating governments and a handful of multinational corporate insiders know for sure, since the negotiations have been conducted in secret – secret, that is, from the public, though not from the corporate insiders who are basically writing the treaty. Thirty-two legal academics from participating countries have written to protest the shut-out; see here. And Occupiers and others have planned a rally and other actions; see, e.g., here.

Meanwhile, here's an educated guess about what just a few of the proposed treaty's provisions probably include (from Public Knowledge):

  • Criminalizing Small Scale Copyright Infringement. Under the TPP, downloading music could be considered a crime. Your computer could be seized as a device that aids this offense and your kid could be sent to jail for downloading. Some of these rules are part of US law. The TPP makes them worse and also imposes similar rules on other countries that don’t have them.
  • Kicking People Off the Internet. The TPP would encourage your ISP and the content industry to agree to institute measures such as three strikes—which kicks you off your internet connection after three accusations of copyright infringement—and deep-packet-inspection—which is akin to the USPS opening your mail. While we can not be sure exactly what is in the TPP, these examples are derived from a copy of the TPP’s IP chapter that leaked in February last year, the provisions that were reported to be part of earlier drafts of ACTA, and previous free trade agreements that the US has signed.
  • Protecting Incidental Copies. The TPP would provide copyright owners power over “buffer copies.” These are the small copies that computers need to make in the process moving data around. With buffer copy protection the number of transactions for which you would need a license from the copyright owner would increase a great deal. One impact of this could be that the music you stream from services such as Pandora could get much more expensive when rights holders demand higher license fees to compensate them for the “additional” copies.
  • Locking out the Deaf and Blind. The TPP would prevent the blind from reading DRM protected ebooks and the deaf from inserting closed captioning onto DRM protected DVDs. In the US, the Copyright Office has made rules in the past that allows the blind to break this DRM. But the continuation of these rules is not a guarantee. And the other TPP countries could fail to make similar rules.
And it's believed there's much more, e.g., provisions that would bar developing countries from buying generic drugs, etc.

As Zachary, OWS-NY librarian put it, "[p]owerlessness is what happens when you sit behind your desk and do nothing. Powerlessness is signing an online petition, or commenting on an article, or forwarding an e-mail."

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