September 6, 2012 | By Maira Sutton

Next Round of TPP Negotiations Begins Today: EFF Will Be There

Today is the first day of the 14th round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), a secretive, multi-national trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on their enforcement. EFF will be at the negotiations this week in Leesburg, Virginia, to speak to delegates and provide them with materials with our analysis of the TPP’s IP provisions and their impact on digital freedom.

To summarize, the problems with this agreement are two-fold: (1) 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, and hinder peoples' abilities to innovate, and (2) the entire process has shut out multi-stakeholder participation and is shrouded in secrecy. The nine nations currently negotiating the TPP are the US, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam. However, Canada and Mexico have also been invited to join the negotiations, and it is likely they will do so.

 

On Sunday, September 5, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is hosting two events: the “Direct Stakeholder Engagement” and the “Stakeholder Briefing.” The Stakeholder Briefing is essentially an hour-long forum for registered members of the public to ask questions to country delegates about the TPP. The Direct Stakeholder Engagement, however, has two parts. It constitutes both the tabling that takes place outside of the secret meeting areas, and the presentations to delegates that are designed for members of civil society, the public, and other interest groups to share their concerns with the agreement. The length of the presentations have gone from the already inadequate 15 minutes we were allocated at the last meeting in San Diego, down to a mere 10 minutes (2 more minutes were added after the initial announcement that they would only allow us to speak for 8 minutes each). Carolina Rossini, EFF’s International Intellectual Property Director, will speak to negotiators about how the TPP will create incentives for ISPs to police the Internet, and how that will effect users’ right to free speech, privacy, and innovation.

Based upon what we know from the leaked text, the US and Australia are pushing for IP provisions that go beyond any copyright laws we have seen anywhere in the world. It is the job of civil society organizations like Public Citizen, KEI, Public Knowledge, ONG Derechos Digitales, and many others, to use every opportunity to speak to the country delegates, especially those who represent countries that we know (based upon the most recent TPP leak) are less persuaded by the US’ proposals on copyright, and to convince them of the high risks of agreeing to those restrictive IP policies. Ahead of this round of TPP meetings, we created a joint statement responding to the US and Australia’s proposal on exceptions and limitations and sent it directly to all the negotiating delegates.

Given the limited amount of time we have had to speak directly to the delegates negotiating this agreement, how do we know that we're even making an impact? While there is no way to precisely measure this, we do know that the stakes are high, and it is unquestionable that we must be present.

We're going to the TPP negotiations to tell country delegates how, even in the US, there have been many unintended consequences of copyright law on digital rights, through the likes of the US DMCA. We emphasize that the US has many built-in safeguards through fair use and some positive case law that mitigate against the high barriers to education, access to information, and innovation, that copyright law has constructed through overreaching enforcement. Without those safeguards, other countries will be left to enact very restrictive laws that could be even more harmful to users in those countries. In the case of signatory countries that have not had a great track record of being so transparent and democratic (such as say, Malaysia), these laws could even be abused to justify other restrictions on rights, such as censorship of political or religious speech.

Our role at the TPP negotiations is to take advantage of those rare opportunities to speak to the delegates, and ensure that they are aware of these many threatening consequences of adopting an IP chapter as pushed forward by the US. At the same time, we are continuing to work on spreading as much awareness about this agreement as possible. We will be on the ground during the beginning of the 14th round of TPP negotiations, to do everything in our power to ensure the public voice is noticed and considered during these secretive backdoor meetings to regulate the Internet.

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