The 16th round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) began in Singapore today, as trade delegates and private stakeholders from 11 participating countries gather to discuss this the contours of Pacific trade. EFF and many others are deeply concerned about TPP, because it appears to contain an intellectual property (IP) chapter that would ratchet up IP enforcement at the expense of digital rights. The TPP could turn Internet Service Providers into copyright cops, prompt ever-higher criminal and civil penalties for sharing content, and expand protections for Digital Rights Management. The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has announced that they plan to complete the TPP by the fall of this year.
We say “appears to contain” because the negotiations have been carried out in secret: our understanding of the U.S. proposal is based primarily on leaked texts from February 2011. However, there have been some additional leaks, like those following the USTR announcement that the TPP would include exceptions and limitations to copyright. Despite the USTR’s effort to suggest that introducing fair use into the TPP was its idea, the leaked negotiating text made it clear that the U.S. was likely pressured into agreeing to exceptions and limitations as a concession. The leak also showed that the U.S. and Australia opposed any fair use that would extend to the “digital environment.” Thus, it appears the USTR continues to lobby for ever more stringent international IP standards without much regard for the collateral damage to the public interest.
As the deadline for concluding the TPP is fast approaching, it’s likely that they’ll be attempting to resolve disagreements in the IP language this round. Guess who won’t be part of that resolution? Yep: civil society.
What makes TPP—and in fact any trade agreement that carries copyright provisions—dangerous for Internet users is that IP enforcement is only one issue out of many others that are being negotiated within these agreements. Therefore countries may trade away their sovereign ability to make copyright regulations in the future if other terms of the TPP are more appealing to particular powerful industries in their country.
Our digital rights should not be traded away at these secretive negotiations for the benefit of a few corporate interests. Join EFF and more than 28,000 people in sending a message to Congress members to demand an end to these secret backdoor meetings: