A new study from Australia presents the latest evidence that loosening copyright restrictions not only enables free speech, but can improve an economy as well. The study, published by the Australian Digital Alliance, indicated that if Australia expanded copyright exceptions like fair use, along with strengthening safe harbor provisions, the country could potentially add an extra $600 million to their economy.
In addition, the report details how vital copyright exceptions are to the Australian economy as a whole. As ADA’s executive officer and copyright advisor Ellen Broad told EFF, "Australia's sectors relying on copyright exceptions currently contribute 14% of our GDP, around $182 billion and they're growing rapidly. It's essential that Australia's copyright policy framework adequately support innovation and growth of these sectors in the digital environment.”
Given how much Australia’s burdensome and confusing copyright law has held up innovation, EFF is encouraged by the fact that copyright reform is being considered and debated in the public sphere.
But more broadly, this is just the latest evidence disproving a major talking point used by the MPAA and RIAA anytime copyright laws come up for a vote: that tough copyright laws are good for the economy. During the SOPA debate, organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) claimed over and over again that the restrictive law are needed to save and create jobs. Yet the Australian study confirms similar research done by CIAA in the US, showing how important fair use exceptions are to the economy. In fact, fair use accounted “for more than $4.5 trillion in annual revenue” in the US and exceeding the economic benefits of copyright laws themselves.
Unfortunately, this new evidence probably won’t stop the MPAA and RIAA from continuing to peddle misinformation about the economics of copyright law in Australia, the US, or elsewhere. Currently, the MPAA is distributing materials to members of the US Congress—perhaps in another attempt to gin up support for SOPA 2.0—extolling how important new, restrictive laws will allegedly to help them create jobs.
Since the economic numbers don’t add up, advocates for draconian copyright laws have resorted to other misleading arguments. For example, this week, a Fox News editorial erroneously argued that intellectual property protection is a “forgotten” constitutional right and “it is the obligation” of Congress to pass laws like SOPA to protect rightsholders. Of course, the problem with SOPA was that it was written so broadly it would’ve ended up censoring millions of Americans who never even thought about copyright, but that’s beside the point. The US Constitution doesmention intellectual property but not in the context of an individual right or mandate to Congress. Specifically, it says:
Congress shall have power . . . To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.
A plain reading of the clause indicates Congress has the authority to use copyright law to promote creativity—if they so choose. There’s no mandate for Congress to pass any copyright law that comes their way, and there’s no clause guaranteeing the rights of movie studios and record labels to maximize their profits. Meanwhile, creativity—far from being stifled without more copyright laws on the books—is currently thriving. There’s been a market increase in the amount of movies, music, and books produced over the last decade, as this comprehensive study done by CCIA and Techdirt’s Mike Masnick shows.
So while huge legacy corporations may find it harder to keep a grip on their market share, it’s not because people have stopped creating and selling art. It’s quite the opposite: they’re creating more by incorporating fair use, cutting out the middlemen, and bringing their art directly to their fans through the Internet.
Unfortunately, all too often copyright maximalists, like the author in the Fox News editorials, put forth the idea that “lawlessness” prevails on the Internet, even though in the US and abroad there are many copyright laws already on the books. In the US alone, Congress has passed fifteen separate laws in the last thirty years alone strengthening the powers of rightsholders.
Most notably, the US DMCA gives power to copyright holders to force websites to take down any of their protected material. In fact, the DMCA gives disproportionate power to the rightsholders, often leading to abuse, and in turn, censoring material that is clearly protected free speech. As Techdirt noted, in Australia, their outdated and burdensome copyright system “is ill-equipped to cope with key Internet activities like search and indexing, caching and hosting, since they all involve incidental copying.”
Both countries would be better served by evidence-based policy that promoted the intended balance of copyright. After decades of unbalanced legislation, the evidence is clear, and points to relaxing copyright restrictions, not strengthening them.
For more on the debate over the economics of copyright see here and here.
This is part one of a two part series on current updates in Do Not Track. Part two will explore issues around default settings in more depth.
As summer wanes, EFF and other digital rights advocates are continuing to fight for Do Not Track, a one-click browser-based signal users can turn on to tell websites not to track their online browsing habits. In this article, we’ll be reviewing recent Congressional hearings about online tracking and discussing a Do Not Track proposal being promoted by EFF, Stanford, and Mozilla.
Congress Hears from Privacy Experts
In June, the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet held a hearing on how the technology industry can implement privacy protections that inform and protect consumers. New York Law School Prof. James Grimmelmann discussed Do Not Track and articulated (PDF) three principles that are necessary to achieve genuine consumer choice:
Usability—privacy interfaces must be clear and clearly disclosed.
Reliability—a consumer who has expressed a choice is entitled to expect that it will be honored.
Later in June, the Senate Commerce Committee heard testimony from Ohio State University Law School Prof. Peter Swire. Swire was critical of current online behavioral advertising industry self-regulation, noting that while “the 2011 DAA [Digital Advertising Alliance] principles have a section called ‘Limitations on the Collection of Multi-Site Data'….As drafted, it is difficult to see what limitations on collection could be enforced given the breadth of the exceptions.” Read Swire's testimony (PDF).
If nothing else, this testimony ensures that lawmakers are hearing from privacy advocates about the problem with today’s ecosystem of pervasive online tracking.
World Wide Web Consortium Works to Achieve Consensus on Do Not Track Standards—Especially When It Comes to Browser Defaults
Meanwhile, work in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Tracking Protection Working Group (TPWG) continues. The W3C is a multi-stakeholder group of academics, thought leaders, companies, industry groups, and advocacy organizations like EFF (as an invited expert) working to create voluntary standards for the web. The TPWG charter, which would have expired by now, was extended another six months at the beginning of August.
Earlier this year, EFF, Mozilla, and Stanford’s Jonathan Mayer offered a compromise proposal that concedes to the online behavioral advertising industry a narrow scope of effect for DNT—mainly affecting “third parties” that consumers generally don’t know about —while subjecting such third parties to significant data collection restrictions. Our proposal would limit companies’ ability to collect a user’s browsing or reading history; companies could collect protocol data (like IP address and HTTP referrer) for a reasonable time, if they did not use unique ID cookies or their equivalents. Our proposal also conceded, however, that companies could collect and retain significantly more data for security purposes.
At a non-technical policy level, the online advertising industry has suggested that companies may be able to meaningfully tighten the scope of permitted uses for online behavioral data and the amount of time that data would be kept or retained. While these would be good steps for privacy, we believe more needs to be done at a technical level. We’re encouraged that there’s been some industry response on these technical issues.
These issues aren’t easy. Entire business models in the online advertising industry are built on the assumption that data about users’ online activities will be easily available. And of course the overall advertising ecosystem isn’t monolithic. “First parties” range from large social networks and search engines to news and blogging sites, and they can also have significant ability to observe users’ behavior on many different sites, e.g. social widgets like a Facebook “like” button. Third-party tracking entities can be large or small, while their economic incentives and financial and technical resources may differ significantly.
The compromise offered by Mozilla, Stanford, and EFF attempts to thread a difficult needle, balancing users’ need for privacy and industry interests in providing advertisements and protecting against security threats. We think it achieves the three principles outlined by Prof. Grimmelman in his testimony to Congress—namely, that is usable (users can set it in the browser with just a couple clicks), reliable (once the Do Not Track standard is set, there will be a recognized understanding of how websites should respond when they receive the Do Not Track signal) and allows for privacy innovation. This third part is essential—the Do Not Track standard we are working to create is one that allows for many new, privacy-protecting business models to flourish. As researchers Jonathan Mayer and Arvind Narayanan articulated in a recent blog, "A rigid use-based approach could lock in current advertising business practices, stifling innovation, or motivate some companies to bend the rules and justify tracking for an ever-expanding set of uses." The compromise agreement on Do Not Track, which limits data collection by third parties but doesn’t tell advertisers what types of ads they can show or limit new forms of future advertising models, provides a framework that’s good for innovation and privacy.
What's a trademark for, anyway? Given recent trends, you might be surprised to learn that trademarks are supposed to protect consumers from confusion about the source of goods or services. You might also be surprised to know that common, descriptive words and phrases usually cannot be registered as trademarks, not least because we don't want trademark owners claiming property rights in our common language. That's why an apple farmer can't claim a trademark in the term "apple."
Unfortunately, folks can't seem to help making overreaching claims, and the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) isn't vigilant about what passes muster. The result: generic terms are registered as trademarks—and then used to threaten free speech.
Case in point: the ongoing threat to Reddit's /r/gaymers community.
Here's the back story: In 2003, Chris Vizzini created the site Gaymer.org, a blog about the gay gaming community. A few years later, he sought to register a trademark in the term, effectively claiming exclusive rights to use of the term in connection with a variety of online activities. Unfortunately, the PTO allowed the registration. Vizzini then sent the popular online community Reddit a cease and desist letter, alleging that the online forum infringed on his trademark. Reddit, Vizzini claims, is using "gaymer" in the "marketing, sale, distribution or identification of its products and/or services."
Of course, "gaymer" had been around long before Vizzini claimed a trademark in the term. In fact, this reddit post noted a few examples, including a 1997 Usenet post. A blog post about gaymers from 2002—a year before Vizzini founded his site—even begins, "It is time to add new words to your gamer lexicon." Today, the term "gaymer" has widespread use—for example, the upcoming GaymerCon conference, which is slated to draw thousands of attendees.
In short, the term describes a group of people and a set of practices. It doesn't belong to any single business, and it is a shame the PTO didn't recognize as much. What's worse is that this is hardly the first time the PTO has signed off on spurious trademark registrations, with dangerous consequences for free speech. A few years ago, for example, the Dervaes Institute registered a trademark in the common term "urban homesteading." The Institute then sent complaints to intermediaries such as Facebook, challenging the use of the phrase by a variety of publishers and authors. Those complaints caused perfectly legal speech to be taken offline, with no easy path to restoration.
Aside from the question of whether "gaymer" should have been accepted as a trademark in the first place, Vizzini's approach is a reminder, if one were needed, that legal threats are rarely the best way to build a business. There are a number of ways to protect one's brand that don't depend on erecting legal walls around common terms. Distancing oneself from a strong, active, and user-generated online community of over 17,000 members is definitely not one of them.
This dispute is still pending, and we may yet see a sensible resolution. We urge Reddit and its users—who have a strong history of standing up against overreaching IP rights claims—to resist Vizzini's threats. The PTO may have been asleep at the wheel this time, but it's not too late for others to restore some sanity to trademark law and practice.
The reactions over the past week to a video, 'The Innocence of Muslims'—made by an Egyptian-American Christian and later shown by Egyptian television, sparking riots—have varied wildly. While some governments have banned YouTube (where a trailer of the video remains available) altogether, YouTube chose on its own volition to block access to the video in Egypt and Libya. Other countries have submitted legal requests for YouTube to block the video, to which the company has complied. The fact that the video seems to have been made for the sole purpose of angering Muslims has caused some to ask if it would pass the free speech test in the United States, while others have defended the video as protected speech.
These events raise a number of questions about the limits of online free expression. As EFF's Eva Galperin wrote for TechCrunch, one concern is the fact that the White House reportedly asked YouTube to review the video to ensure its compliance with the company's terms of service. While it does not seem that the White House's request was anything more than just that, as Galperin commented to Politico: "[W]hen the White House calls and asks you to review it, it sends a message and has a certain chilling effect."
A second concern is the apparent fact that, in making their decision to censor in Egypt and Libya, YouTube did not consult with local civil liberties groups in either country. Whereas the later blockages—in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and by the time of publication, perhaps elsewhere—were determined by a local court in each respective country, the decision to block the video in Egypt and Libya was determined solely by a company in the United States with presumably no local expertise. Given the freedoms that Egyptians and Libyans risked their lives for during the uprisings of 2011, it is a shame that a Western company would serve as arbiter of what they are and are not capable of viewing online.
YouTube's actions also serve as a reminder that the Internet, what we often think of as the "new public sphere," is not, in fact, public. As Andrew F. Sellars of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society's Citizen Media Law Project wrote this week, we must recognize "a few critical consequences of allowing speech to be judged by private parties," namely:
1) The fact that the leading American Internet companies have set the bar for free speech lower than the First Amendment.
2) That placing private organizations in the position of arbiter leaves us with no formal remedy should we feel that a decision is unfair, and
3) There is nothing to keep the free speech practices of these companies from changing without warning, and nothing that requires consistency from them.
In other words, while it may be that this case was exceptional, there is nothing to prevent YouTube from making similar decisions in the future.
We are also, of course, concerned about the fact that several countries have either ordered the video blocked or have blocked YouTube entirely. Thus far, the video is inaccessible in at least eight countries, with threats from others to censor in the coming days. We will continue to track instances of censorship and present them on the Deeplinks blog.
Internet Censorship watchdog OpenNetInitiative has released an updated report on the state of online freedom of expression in Vietnam and the verdict is grim. The Communist republic has placed heavy restrictions on the dissemination of information for decades, but in 2012 the government has introduced regulations that would provide new powers to censor and criminalize online speech.
Most worrying is the introduction of the Decree on the Management, Provision, Use of Internet Services and Internet Content Online draft decree aimed at regulating domestic Internet use. The 60-article document is filled with alarmingly vague language, including bans on “abusing the provision and use of the Internet and information on the web” to “oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” “undermining the grand unity of all people” and “undermining the fine customs and traditions of the nation.” It also requires Internet filtration of all such offensive content, requires real-name identification for all personal websites and profiles, and creates legal liability for intermediaries such as blogs and ISPs, for failing to regulate third-party contributors, triggering grave concerns about the decree’s impact on domestic online service providers.
The decree furthermore attempts to require all foreign and domestic companies that provide online services to cooperate with the government to take down prohibited content. For international companies without a business presence in Vietnam, the law would “encourage” them to establish offices or representatives in the country in order to hold them accountable for implementation of the decree. In an earlier draft of the law, foreign businesses would have been required to obtain legal status and set up servers in Vietnam.
According to ONI’s analysis, the implementation date of the these new regulations “remains unclear.”
Just as important as the new regulations, the ongoing harassment, intimidation, and detainment of bloggers who have spoken out against the government poses an immediate threat to online free expression. Seventeen social activists and bloggers have been arrested since last August, some of which have received harsh prison sentences, and many of which have been detained for over a year without trail.
This summer, the mother of imprisoned Vietnamese blogger Ta Phong Tan died after setting herself on fire to protest her daughter's detention on charges spreading anti-state propaganda. Ta Phong Tan, a former police officer who documented social injustice on her blog Conglysuthat (Vietnamese for "Justice and Truth"), was arrested in September of 2011, according to the France-based exile support group Vietnam Committee on Human Rights. She was also a member of the Free Journalists Network of Vietnam, a press freedom group that Nguyen Van Hai helped found and which now operates from exile. Tan was to be tried along with bloggers Nguyen Van Hai and Phan Thanh Hai who posted political articals to the banned Vietnamese website “Free Journalists Club.” That trial has been delayed while authorities investigate Tan’s mother’s death.
In August, EFF joined with 11 concerned organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Index on Censorship in signing a joint letter addressed to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung requesting the immediate release of all 17 social activists and bloggers.
Dear Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung,
As you receive this letter, seventeen Vietnamese social activists, including bloggers and citizen journalists have been in jail for up to a year. Most have not even been brought to trial. These seventeen individuals have been arbitrarily detained because of their work as citizen journalists, environmental advocates, anti-corruption crusaders and human rights defenders.
Over the last year, the international human rights community has gotten to know their names: Dang Xuan Dieu, Ho Duc Hoa, Paulus Le Van Son, Nguyen Van Duyet, Nong Hung Anh, Nguyen Van Oai, Chu Manh Son, Dau Van Duong, Tran Huu Duc, Nguyen Xuan Anh, Ho Van Oanh, Thai Van Dung, Tran Minh Nhat, Ta Phong Tan, Tran Vu Anh Binh, Nguyen Dinh Cuong, and Hoang Phong.
These individuals have simply sought to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association guaranteed under international law. What they have in common is a passion for social justice, religious freedom, and involvement in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.
Unfortunately, they have been detained pursuant to vague, ill-defined statutes under the Vietnamese penal code: Article 79, which effectively restricts freedom of association and Article 88, which essentially limits freedom of speech. The recent petition filed by Stanford Law School’s Allen Weiner to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention argued very well that their continued detention violates international law.
On March 12, 2012 nine international NGOs (ACAT France, Access, ARTICLE 19, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Front Line Defenders, Index On Censorship, Media Defence South East Asia, Media Legal Defence Initiative, Southeast Asian Press Alliance) sent you a letter which called for their immediate release and access to legal counsel. Since then, their situation has not improved but rather worsened: Four of these activists have been unjustly sentenced to prison terms and the remainder are being held without access to a lawyer. Blogger Paulus Le Son was transferred to Hoa Lo jail in Hanoi which is known for its harsh prison conditions. Another citizen journalist, Dang Xuan Dieu, has not been allowed a single family visitation over the last year.
We respectfully remind you of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s obligations under international law to protect the rights of its citizens when it ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
These rights are also protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is a matter customary international law. Therefore, freedom of association, freedom of speech and the right to a fair trial are basic rights which should be protected under Vietnam’s legal system and not unjustifiably curtailed.
We believe Vietnam as a country would benefit from greater respect for the civil liberties of its citizens and Vietnamese society would be richer with the contributions of all its citizens. We urgently call on your government to withdraw all the charges against those who are held pending trial and for those who have been sentenced to be unconditionally exonerated.
Christine Laroque, Asia Programs Manager, ACAT France
Brett Solomon, Executive Director, Access Now
Nguyen Ngoc, Associated Vietnamese Writers in Exile Centre
Jillian York, Director for International Freedom of Expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Kamila Shamsie, Writers at Risk Committee Co-Chair, English PEN
Mary Lawlor, Director, Front Line Defenders
Phil Robertson, Deputy Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch
Rohan Jayasekera, Deputy CEO, Index on Censorship
H.R. Dipendra, Executive Director, Media Defence – Southeast Asia
Peter Noorlander, Executive Director, Media Legal Defence Initiative
Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Executive Director, Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Nguyen Le Nhan Quyen, Vietnamese League for Human Rights
EFF remains deeply concerned about the deteriorating state of Internet freedom in Vietnam and will continue to monitor the situation closely.
Last week, Senator Leahy proposed detailed language to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the primary law governing privacy rights for stored email. ECPA is woefully outdated—it was passed in 1986 before ubiquitous cloud computing and archived email even existed—so this is great news. The language will be discussed by the Judiciary committee this week and then hopefully advance to the whole Senate for consideration. If you haven't done so already, you should take our action alert urging Congress to protect our privacy by updating ECPA.
Right now, ECPA doesn’t always require a probable cause warrant to force service providers to turn over the contents of users’ private emails, instant messages, and social networking messages.The government can compel the handover of email stored at a “remote computing service” with a so-called “D order” without showing probable cause. Nor does the government need a warrant if an email message is older than 180 days. This low threshold to electronic messages is in stark contrast to the fourth amendment protections for physical letters. Most troubling, the Justice Department has maintained that opened, read mail left in your mailbox (e.g., Gmail) falls completely outside of the privacy protections of the Stored Communications Act.
None of this makes sense. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said as much in 2010 when it held that the government's ability to obtain a person's email from a service provider without a warrant was unconstitutional. Leahy's proposed language extends that holding to the rest of the country, beginning the task of bringing ECPA into the 21st century. Leahy's bill also requires that the government use a probable cause warrant if it wants to obtain much non-content customer information. The proposed Senate language joins similar privacy-protective bills in the House like Rep. Nadler's introduction of a free-standing bill that requires the government to obtain a warrant before obtaining electronic communications.
The tide is clearly turning. Along with the Digital Due Process Coalition, a coalition of which EFF is a member, we continue to advocate for updating ECPA. The same protections found in the physical world should apply equally to the virtual world.
Unfortunately, Senator Leahy's proposed language would also weaken privacy-protective measures in the Video Privacy and Protection Act (VPPA). Currently, the VPPA requires users' consent each time a video tape service provider wants to disclose a user’s request or purchase of any video and also specifies that this information may only be disclosed to law enforcement with a warrant, court order, or grand jury subpoena. It also stops companies from sharing the data for marketing purposes. When Netflix recently challenged whether or not the law applies to online video, a federal district court ruled: “Congress [intended to protect] the confidentiality of private information about viewing preferences regardless of the business model or media format involved.”
As a result, video and social media companies like Facebook and Netflix are lobbying hard for changes. The former has spent $1.6 million dollars in the first half of 2012, while the latter has spent close to $400,000. Both companies have been successful so far—changes to the VPPA have already passed the House. Senator Leahy's language significantly rewrites the VPPA and breaks down its core privacy protections. The proposed language allows for one-time advance consent—blanket sharing for any and all videos a user watches without any nuance as to who the user is sharing the information with or what exactly the user is giving up control over.
At a hearing in January on the VPPA, Senator Leahy warned about certain "dominant companies," which want to "simplify matters so they can more easily track Americans activity across the board—obviously for their own financial benefit." At the same hearing, Leahy also said: "We need to be faithful to our fundamental right to privacy." We agree. Requiring warrants for stored email is a huge step in protecting privacy; weakening VPPA should not be the price paid.
Wednesday at 10 am, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear oral argument in Haskell v. Harris, examining crucial questions of DNA privacy. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, this is a unique opportunity to hear debate over how your genetic information can be collected, stored, and shared by law enforcement.
California state law mandates DNA collection from anyone who is arrested for felony, whether or not they are eventually charged or convicted of a crime. That DNA is stored in a database accessible to law enforcement across the country and even around the world. The government has argued that the genetic markers that make up a person’s DNA profile are “junk” and provide no more information than a person’s fingerprint. However, new research has shown that so-called “junk” DNA actually plays a critical role in controlling how our cells, tissue and organs behave. As we explained last week, that means that when the government collects DNA, it has information that could reveal an extraordinary amount of private information, including familial relationships, medical history, predisposition for disease, and possibly even behavioral tendencies and sexual orientation.
In this case, Haskell v. Harris, the ACLU of Northern California is challenging the California law, arguing that it violates constitutional guarantees of privacy and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. This is the first court hearing to address DNA privacy since the research on “junk” DNA has become widely known, and in its role as amicus, EFF asked the court to consider the ground-breaking new research. The oral argument is open to the public at the federal courthouse at 95 7th Street in San Francisco. The hearing starts at 10am, in courtroom 1 on the third floor.
While US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who oversees the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), continues to declare that the trade negotiations are “the most open, transparent process ever,” we are confounded as to what he defines to be "open" or "transparent." They have yet to even provide the public — civil society organizations and policy makers — with any official documents relating to the text of the agreement. We are fighting for real transparency, which means access to the current draft documents or country proposals for provisions to into the agreement.
Since direct participation in the process is not possible, the public is using social media and online platforms to raise awareness and voice their concerns around the TPP. Internet users around the world are eager to participate in these trade meetings and ensure that this agreement will not effect their digital liberties.
At this time, EFF’s TPP action center has sent over 77,000 messages to Congress Members; the Avaaz petition has almost reached 690,000 signatures; and OpenMedia’s Stop the Trap petition has received more than 110,000 signatures. These numbers show that Internet users are coming to understand that the TPP poses a direct threat to their digital rights, and want to show government leaders and trade negotiators that they will no longer be silent as the TPP continues to roll forward without any democratic oversight.
We interviewed the Executive Director of OpenMedia, Steve Anderson, to discuss their international Stop The Trap coalition campaign.
EFF: What is the StopTheTrap.net coalition and why it was created?
Steve Anderson: The StopTheTrap.net Coalition is a diverse group of organizations and people who have come together to stand against the Internet restrictions being proposed in the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. OpenMedia and its partners in this Coalition aim to enable citizens, civil society organizations, and web businesses to effectively speak out against the TPP's threat to our Internet freedom.
The StopTheTrap.net campaign serves as an online platform that uses the Internet—particularly social media and other online tools—to amplify our voices against the Internet trap, currently being set by industry lobbyists through the TPP. Big media conglomerates wish to use the TPP to protect their outdated business models; we're using the Internet to protect and advance our digital rights.
We strongly believe in using the Internet to save the Internet. Together, we act as the Internet's immune system.1 We built on that momentum when, in the weeks leading up to the Virginia round of TPP talks, we launched a new tool at OpenTheTPP.net. The tool allows citizens to submit comments about the TPP, which Coalition partners took and projected on the walls right inside the meeting venue. Thousands took action, and their thoughts about the TPP were splashed across the walls in front of negotiators through a series of projections.
EFF: What has been the impact of the campaign in Canada and outside Canada?
Anderson: Canada has a robust Internet freedom movement as evinced in the recent success of the Stop The Meter campaign and the fight against online spying bill C-30. We at OpenMedia never intended to take action on international campaigns, but our supporters recognized the threat that TPP posed to their digital rights and pushed us to get involved. We work for citizens, and recognizing their concerns, so we took action.
To date, several prominent Canadian organizations and businesses—including the Council of Canadians and domain hosting company TuCows—have joined the campaign. Almost all of Canada’ key opposition parties (the NDP, Liberal Party, and Green Party) have come out against the TPP's Internet restrictions in recent months. Momentum is growing and we hope the Conservative Government will rethink their participation in the TPP.
Almost 110,000 people from several countries around the world have signed the StopTheTrap.net petition, and many have spread the word in their online and offline communities.
EFF: What are the next steps and goals of the Stop the Trap campaign and how do they relate to OpenMedia’s mission?
Anderson: In short, we’ll work to engage more people, organizations, and web businesses in fighting for Internet freedom. We know that the chapter of the TPP that forces Internet restrictions is fast becoming the biggest challenge to negotiators, and we know that it’s due to public outcry. We intend to build on this public involvement until they open the process and strip out invasive rules, including provisions that give media conglomerate new powers to fine Internet users, block websites, and terminate our access to the Internet.
If TPP negotiators to listen to us fully now, there are several key inflection points coming up such as Mexico and Canada officially joining the TPP and a new round of meetings. OpenMedia’s mission is to safeguard the possibilities of the Internet through participatory digital policymaking. If the TPP process continues we will continue to find creative and effective ways to insert citizen voices into the process, until officials realize that citizens should be in the driver’s seat of any binding agreement that affects our use of the Internet.