November 22, 2013 | By Maira Sutton

Civil Society Groups Demand Transparency and User Protections in TPP

Civil society groups are coming out in force against the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, following Wikileaks' publication of the “Intellectual Property” chapter. The leaked chapter confirmed our worst fears that TPP carries Hollywood's wishlist of policies, including provisions to encourage ISPs to police user activities and liability for users for simply bypassing digital locks on content and devices for legal purposes. Public interest groups and advocates are making a renewed demand for transparency in negotiations and ask that negotiators ensure users' interests are fairly balanced against those of Big Content.

As part of the Fair Deal Coalition, representing Internet users, schools, libraries, people with disabilities, tech firms, and others, we have sent an open letter to TPP negotiators and government leaders asking them to reject the restrictive copyright provisions as seen in the August 2013 leaked text. As they stand, the harmful proposals—set forth mostly by the U.S. and Australia—would limit the open Internet, access to knowledge, harm future innovation, and impose some of the worst features of U.S. copyright law on other countries, without the corresponding limits. In the letter, we ask that negotiators and government representatives stand for users' interests, and respect fundamental rights like due process, privacy, and free speech. The letter is co-signed by over two dozen groups from around the world and has been sent to the leaders of all 12 negotiating countries.

Trade Negotiations Must be Transparent

EFF also signed on to a letter led by the Sunlight Foundation to urging government leaders to conduct any further TPP negotiations in a way that upholds the democratic principles of openness and accountability:

In order to ensure that democratic principles are preserved, policy makers, civil society, and members of the public must be given the opportunity to have a level of participation and engagement in this process that is at least equal to that of industry representatives. Attempting to conduct international negotiations in secret has proven untenable in the past, with public opposition swelling when details of the plans are apparently leaked by those in positions of power who share these concerns. We believe that it is time for governments around the world live up to their own rhetoric and extend their commitments to openness and public participation to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and any future negotiations.

The main problem with the TPP is that trade delegates are negotiating this agreement behind closed doors under the undue influence of major entertainment companies and other corporate interests. Most of the 700 members on Trade Advisory Committees are corporate lawyers, and they have almost unlimited access to see and comment on draft texts. Meanwhile, civil society groups have only leaked documents to know what is being proposed in the TPP.

Wikileaks' publication of the “Intellectual Property” chapter is an opportunity for public interest advocates to make these threats known to the public. But it's important to note that there are other chapters on investor rights and e-commerce that are also deeply worrisome. We still do not know how negotiations over those chapters are proceeding and we may not even have a chance to see their text until the agreement is finished and can’t be changed.

The public has a right to know when their government representatives are proposing regulations in their name, especially when it deals with non-trade issues like digital copyright enforcement that will distort or prevent reforms to domestic law. We want to see the drafts of TPP, and the U.S. government’s negotiating position, released after every round of negotiation. Leaks are far from a sufficient substitute for true transparency and a participatory public process.

If you're in the U.S., help us to demand that our lawmakers oppose fast-track. Let's ask Congress to call for a hearing and exercise their authority to oversee the U.S. trade office’s secret copyright agenda.

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Other Public Interest Statements on TPP:

  • The Internet Society expresses concerns that the global Internet may be harmed if countries adopt Intellectual Property provisions contained in the recently leaked TPP draft: “We do not believe that these provisions are consistent with basic principles of transparency, due process, accountability, proportionality and the rule of law.”

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Jul 29 @ 6:56am

Happening now: TPP negotiators trading away our digital rights in the backrooms of a luxury hotel in Maui. https://eff.org/r.zr7c

Jul 28 @ 6:11pm

We're calling on the Copyright Office to ask USTR to re-think its copyright term proposals in TPP. Join us: https://eff.org/r.4etj

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