September 5, 2012 | By Carolina Rossini

Congress Members Demand USTR Tell the American People What's Going on With the TPP and its Impact on Digital Freedom

US Congressional Representatives Ron Wyden and Darrell Issa insist that the American people have a right to know what the US is seeking in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) with respect to intellectual property rights (IPR). They have co-authored a letter to Ron Kirk [PDF], the head of the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) that is leading the US delegation in the TPP negotiations, asking him to reveal what the USTR is seeking in the intellectual property chapter.

Specifically, they call attention to its provisions that will impact digital freedoms:

Disciplines related to IPR could impact how people gain access to the Internet and could constrain what people may say online or how they can collaborate and share content. It is imperative that the IPR chapter of the proposed TPP agreement not inappropriately constrain online activity. Poorly-constructed IPR disciplines that erode Internet freedom could impede innovation, economic growth, and speech.

Given the Internet’s increasing role in facilitating American exports of digital goods and services, it is crucial that they do not tip the balance in IP enforcement in a way that will only further restrict Internet freedoms and users' digital rights. The letter concludes with their request that the USTR convey to the American people whether other obligations they are pursuing in the agreement will promote an open and free Internet.

EFF welcomes this Congressional effort in fighting for a democratic and transparent process. The terms of international free trade agreements do not just impact the way in which businesses engage in international commerce; these agreements actually shape many domestic policies. As EFF has reported in the past (check out our infographic), the TPP is a secretive, multi-national trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive IP laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on IPR enforcement. TPP is a terrible model for a trade agreement for the 21stcentury, and its main problems are two-fold:

(1) IP chapter: Leaked draft texts of the agreement show that the IP chapter would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, Internet liability, and hinder peoples' abilities to innovate.

(2) Lack of transparency: The entire process has shut out multi-stakeholder participation and is shrouded in secrecy, which has raised concerns on its constitutionality.

Help us call on all Congress members to step-up and join this letter [PDF] to fight back against these backroom dealings to regulate the Internet!

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