July 2, 2012 | By Maira Sutton

Internet Users Again Shut Out of Secret TPP Negotiations

Secret, undemocratic trade agreements could put shackles on our free open Internet and they need to be stopped before they do. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is being negotiated behind closed doors in a process that not only excludes civil society and public, but also elected representatives that already have proper security clearance are denied the ability to view and participate in the negotiations. Meanwhile, corporate representatives have full access to the text online. This process is not only lacks any transparency, it’s completely incompatible with our democratic notion of society.

This week, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) will host the 13th round of negotiations over the TPP in San Diego at the Hilton Hotel. EFF will be attending the first days of the meeting, both to engage with the negotiators at the USTR-run stakeholder events and to speak and rally outside the meetings to raise public awareness of these shady proceedings.

The TPP carries provisions that would enact the global norms of copyright policy lobbied for by content industry lobbyists. Those provisions would override sovereign national laws and prevent countries from passing, or even retaining, pragmatic copyright legislation appropriate for their own national needs. It’s a secretive plurilateral1 agreement that includes provisions dealing with intellectual property (IP) including online copyright enforcement, anti-circumvention measures, and liability for Internet intermediaries like Internet service providers and hosting providers. Due to the secrecy of the negotiations, we don’t know what’s in the current version of the TPP’s IP chapter; the general public has only seen a leaked February 2011 version of the U.S. IP chapter proposal [pdf]. Given the corrupt process we’ve observed and what we've seen in this leak, we have every right to be furious that government representatives are negotiating an agreement that will harm online expression, privacy, and innovation on the Internet.

Within the past month, Canada and Mexico have been invited to join the agreement. So while 11 countries are currently involved, the TPP will likely continue to expand to include other nations. Worst of all, it creates a global standard of intellectual property enforcement that is even more flawed than the broken copyright laws established in the United States.

Events Planned At the Negotiations

Many events and actions are planned around this week’s TPP negotiations in San Diego. Seeing how eventful the last round of negotiations went in Dallas and the great number of new organizations that have joined the fight against this secret corporate-fueled agreement, we’re excited to see how the week will play out.

EFF’s International Intellectual Property team is in San Diego to speak out against this international trade agreement and its impacts on Internet freedom, access to knowledge, and innovation. The first day of negotiations begins on Monday July 2, when an internal stakeholder presentation and tabling event is scheduled inside the Hilton hotel. EFF’s International Intellectual Property Director—Carolina Rossini— will present directly to stakeholders about the problems with the TPP’s provisions relating to technological protection measures (AKA digital rights management [DRM]).  A public kick-off rally and press event will be held outside the hotel where EFF’s International Intellectual Property Coordinator—Maira Sutton— will rally and give a brief speech to raise awareness within the general public. On Tuesday July 3, the EFF team and Francisco Vera from Chilean digital rights organization, ONG Derechos Digitales, will discuss the TPP’s IP chapter and its impact on the Internet. For more information on these events, visit this link.

Organizations Uniting Against the TPP’s IP Provisions

EFF has joined OpenMedia.ca, Public Knowledge, ONG Derechos Digitales, Free Press, and other groups in an international coalition to fight the provisions in the TPP’s IP chapter that would have dire consequences for digital rights. While we have our own action alert targeted at the U.S. Congress, the TPP must also be fought on the international front, so we have endorsed a petition to state leaders and trade negotiators in opposition to all provisions would criminalize or otherwise restrict any use of the Internet. We will be adding more organizations and groups to this coalition in the weeks to come.

Growing Congressional Demands for Transparency

Congress members are finally turning the heat on the USTR to halt these secretive TPP negotiations. Last Wednesday, over 130 House representatives sent a letter to US Trade Representative Kirk demanding transparency in the negotiations process. Also last week, four Senators, including Ron Wyden2, sent a letter to the USTR requesting congressional access to all negotiation documents, in addition to permitting access for groups advocating Internet freedom policies. Representative Issa formally asked to "observe" the negotiations in San Diego, in a move to encourage inclusion of representatives and other stakeholders in the negotiation process.

If you're in the US, please call on your representatives to oppose Fast Track for TPP and other undemocratic trade deals with harmful digital policies.

  • 1. A plurilateral agreement is an agreement between more than two countries, but not a great many, since that would make it a multilateral agreement.
  • 2. Regular readers may recognize his name: We’re big fans.

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