The (unofficial) blog of the BCLA Information Policy Committee
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November 14, 2013Posted by on
A chapter from the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement was leaked this week (thank you WikiLeaks) and the text is as draconian and terrible as we had feared.
From Consumer Affairs:
WikiLeaks published the complete draft of the Intellectual Property chapter for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed international commercial pact between the United States and 11 Asian and Latin American countries. Although talks started in 2008, this is the first access the public and press have had to this text. The administration has refused to make draft TPP text public, despite announcing intentions to sign the deal by year’s end. Signatory nations’ laws would be required to conform to TPP terms.
The leak shows the United States seeking to impose the most extreme demands of Big Pharma and Hollywood, Public Citizen said, despite the express and frequently universal opposition of U.S. trade partners.
There are other commentators talking about it very astutely right now, but one of the most important things is how this agreement would make the possibility for change in copyright regimes insanely difficult:
The second that Congress tries to change a law that goes against the TPP — such as, say, reducing the term of copyrights from the insane level today to merely crazy — lobbyists and pundits will come screaming from every direction about how we can’t abandon our “international obligations.” We’ll hear horror stories about how breaking the agreement will have widespread implications, including trade wars, tariffs and other horrible things. Once it’s in the trade agreement, “breaking it” becomes effectively impossible.
The lobbyists for the entertainment industry know this stuff cold. Over the past three decades they’ve perfected this process of getting crap they can’t get done in Congress pushed through in various trade agreements, and then they use that to mold US law to exactly how they want it.
Now that is from a US perspective, but is there any reason to think that Canada would push for fewer restrictions in defiance of a trade agreement like this? Strangely enough, according to Michael Geist’s first reading of the document, there is:
Interestingly, Canada has also promoted Canadian-specific solutions on many issues. The bad news is that the U.S. – often joined by Australia – is demanding that Canada rollback its recent copyright reform legislation with a long list of draconian proposals.
We have our own issues with copyright laws here, but an agreement like this would seem to effectively wipe out any progress we’re making in favour of stricter more punitive laws designed not for and by citizens but corporations.
As we’ve come to expect in this arena, OpenMedia is on the case, providing good calls to action for citizens, though they’re focused on the ISP billing aspect and its anti-consumer implications. The TPP also would turn our Internet Service Providers into copyright police:
Instead of your ISPs selling you a connection service, the TPP will force them to pry into what you’re doing online. The TPP will make ISPs legally responsible if any of their hundreds of thousands of customers downloads illegal content.
A Councillor for the Pirate Party Australia pointed out the punitive nature of aspects of this agreement in a way that could have real implications for libraries:
Perhaps the most shocking inclusion in the TPP IP chapter is criminalisation of non-commercial copyright infringement. Article QQ.H.7.2 contains language that is supported by the United States and by Australia, that would potentially imprison people considered to have committed infringement on a “commercial scale”, regardless of whether there was a financial incentive. This is a fundamentally unbalanced proposal.
Librarians should probably be concerned about that kind of thing. Is the important accessibility work that a Canadian organization like the National Network for Equitable Library Service does on a large enough scale to run afoul of these provisions? Could we be sending anyone who helps break DRM for format shifting purposes to jail? Maybe not, but we are not being given a voice in this debate.
Secret negotiations on issues that affect us, including huge trade agreements, are bullshit. People deserve to have a real voice and make informed choices as to what happens in their lives. Please read up on the TPP (OpenMedia compiled a good bunch of links today) and make yourself heard.