November 21, 2013 | By Maira Sutton

We're TPP Activists: Reddit Asked Us Everything

As another of round of secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meetings began in Salt Lake City this week, EFF joined Knowledge Ecology International, Public Citizen, Techdirt, and Open Media, in a Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) to answer users' questions about the leaked TPP “Intellectual Property” chapter.

We answered questions, because representatives of the governments negotiating the text certainly weren't going to. Internet users expect to be able to engage and participate in deciding our policy priorities. We do not want regulations to be decided through back room deals with corporate interests—and the growing opposition against TPP reflects this. When a user asked how we plan on stopping this agreement, Peter Maybarduk of Public Citizen said it best: “Our plan to stop the TPP is simple: tell people what's in it.”

We got dozens of great questions from users, ranging from people completely unfamiliar with the TPP, to copyright scholars who haven't been following the negotiations as closely as some of our TPP experts. Here are some highlights from the discussion:

User Osven asked:

In your opinion, what is the most important (or intrusive) part of the intellectual property chapter for ordinary citizens?

Is there anything we can do as citizens to provide feedback on the TPP formation process? How can we help preserve freedom?

Krista Cox from Knowledge Ecology International:

There are many important and intrusive aspects of the IP chapter for ordinary citizens. One of the first ones that springs to my mind, perhaps because of the recent controversy in the United States, concerns cell phone unlocking. If the United States proposal is accepted, there would be no way to make a permanent exception to the circumvention of a technological protection measure (a "digital lock") to unlock your cell phone and allow you to take your phone from one carrier to another, even when your service contract has expired. To do so would violate what the United States has proposed in the TPP. There are many examples of how digital locks have been used inappropriately and resulted in unintended consequences for the everyday citizen. EFF has a great paper called the "Unintended Consequences: 15 Years Under the DMCA" on this issue.

With respect to providing feedback, it's difficult to do without knowing what's in the TPP so we're fortunate to have had a leak of the text. However, it is important to push for greater transparency because we have not had many leaks and there are many chapters that could affect ordinary citizens that we have not seen yet. The secrecy is an undemocratic process and citizens should fight back against it.

User Sighfur asked:

What is the most unsettling part of this release to you all?

Danny O'Brien of EFF answered:

Speaking personally — that it happened this way at all. We're now at the point where two of the biggest issues that EFF covers — NSA surveillance, and global intellectual property and internet regulation — now rely in large part on the work of whistleblowers for public debate and analysis.

TPP is a text that will affect millions of people. Worse, with fast track operating in the US, even Congress would have had almost no input in their content. It's more than unsettling that this is business as usual these days.

User nathan1465 asked:

why are big internet companies not getting behind a movement to protest or advocate against the tpp? Where is google, wikipedia, etc?

Maira Sutton of EFF:

They've been somewhat vocal. The tech industry group, CCIA, which includes Google, Facebook, and Foursquare, has been critiquing some of the copyright provisions through the DisCo Project

But you're right that they're been mostly silent. I have three guesses as to why tech companies been quiet on the copyright enforcement provisions:

1) Since the TPP is a trade agreement that covers wide-range of regulatory issues, it could be that they don't want to come out against it so they don't want to step on any toes by seeming like they're "anti-trade.”

2) They're pushing for provisions in another chapter on “E-Commerce” on the topic of data flows. There hasn't been a leak of this yet so we don't know its exact terms, but it threatens to carry language that treats user privacy laws like trade barriers. It could have fishy language that undermines protections for users to control their own data. Companies want to be able to do what they want with users' information since that's what they sell and trade for profit.

3) Many of those companies already have existing copyright takedown systems, may not want to put themselves on the line for the above reasons. But we feel that they should be challenging these laws, especially because the “intermediary liability” provisions unfairly puts the onus on them to privately enforce copyright. While we have some pretty good protections for those companies here in the U.S. (i.e. the safeharbor protections) we've already seen tons of problems where content is taken down and users are censored due to a system that incentivizes over-caution by these companies liable for their users' infringement.

User mdentsjp asked:

What needs to be done to stop this from getting passed?

Peter Maybarduk of Public Citizen:

We need to stop fast track, for one. That is the mechanism by which Congress cedes its constitutional authority over trade policy to the executive branch. Fast track makes it easier for industry groups to ram bad policies through, via the Office of the US Trade Representative, with little Congressional oversight. Last week nearly half of Congress revolted against fast track authority, and we can build on that success. Members of Congress need to hear the message: no to fast track.

That's right. We need to prevent Congress from handing their constitutional authority over trade policy to the Obama administration. Which is why we need your help to send messages to your representatives to oppose legislation to enact fast-track authority.


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