A draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership's (TPP) Intellectual Property chapter from May 2014 leaked this past fall, confirming what previous leaks had suggested: this so-called trade agreement would bring copyright enforcement provisions that threaten users' right to free expression, privacy, and unfettered access to knowledge online.
This leaked text also revealed new terms on the misuse of trade secrets. These are dangerously vague and could be used to enact harsh criminal punishments against anyone who reveals or even accesses information through an allegedly confidential "computer system." This language could have alarming consequences if it obligates nations to enact new laws that could be used to crack down on journalists and whistleblowers. It's no wonder TPP negotiations continued to be as secretive as ever this year—policymakers are taking advantage of back-room policymaking to criminalize the very people who help public interest groups like EFF understand what's contained in these agreements.
The major fight in the US was a campaign to defeat “fast track.” Fast track authority, also known as trade promotion authority, is a legal mechanism whereby Congress hands its Constitutional mandate to set the agenda and negotiate the terms of trade agreements over to Obama and the US Trade Representative. If fast track passes, the US Trade Representative could pass agreements like TPP and other deals like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with even less public oversight. In January, two of the most Hollywood-friendly Senators introduced it in a bill called the "Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act."
Following a joint effort with various public interest groups and individuals across the country, we collectively sent hundreds of thousands of messages to US lawmakers, calling on them to oppose fast track. We helped convince some leading Senators to come out against it and the bill eventually fizzled. But another fast track bill was inevitable, so we continued our campaign. Digital rights organizations were joined by over 25 technology companies to call on US lawmakers to oppose the passage of fast track authority. Then in September, we delivered a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden to fix the secretive, Hollywood-captured trade process.
2014 was a major year in our fight against TPP, but we're expecting it will all come to a head in the new year. Public statements from the White House and Republican lawmakers have reiterated their resolve to introduce and pass new fast track legislation in the coming months. At the same time, the US Trade Representative has hinted that it plans to finalize the TPP in 2015.
While we keep the pressure on lawmakers to oppose fast track next year, we're going to continue our call to TPP negotiators to follow the EU's lead to bring transparency to trade negotiations once and for all. Stopping TPP is about stopping what has, up until this point, seemed like an endless cycle of corporate-dominated back-room policy laundering. We've so far been successful in slowing down the progress of TPP, but when the ultimate showdown arrives, we'll all need to be ready to fight.
This article is part of our Year In Review series; read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2014. Like what you're reading? EFF is a member-supported nonprofit, powered by donations from individuals around the world. Join us today and defend free speech, privacy, and innovation.