The Information Policy Blog

The (unofficial) blog of the BCLA Information Policy Committee

Tag Archives: TPP

Reactions to the Leaked Trans-Pacific Partnership Document – It’s Pretty Terrible

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.

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bc library conference 2013 recap

This is not a formal report by any means, but a bit of a recap of some IPC-related activities at this year’s BCLA conference. Feel free to add information in the comments or on Twitter about info-policy related activities you participated in as well.

We start achronologically with the BCLA Annual General Meeting on Saturday morning. The IPC had two resolutions on the table: one condemning the muzzling of government employees meant to provide a “[f]ramework for activism to support employees of Library and Archives Canada, employees of other government libraries, and government scientists” and one commending the life and work of Aaron Swartz. Both resolutions passed but there was a significant moment when our chair was asked what exactly the point of the Aaron Swartz resolution was, what would happen because of it? Our chair responded that this was something to do to show people in the future that yes librarians care about this kind of stuff, we don’t just remain silent, and it was also a decent human thing to do.

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Outside the AGM, IPC partnered up with Steve Anderson from OpenMedia.ca to talk about netroots advocacy and the kinds of things librarians can do to get involved. Steve took us through the activities his organization has been involved in, which involved a healthy amount of meme-ification. Canadians do care about a neutral internet even if they don’t think about it, and Myron pushed the attendees to educate ourselves so we can talk about these issues with our members who would be affected by online spying bills, predatory pricing and undemocratic international agreements (read: everyone). And Barbara Jo May made sure we were optimistic in our abilities to make change in our world.

On Friday night the Hot Topics panel got heated near the end which was probably to be expected with a librarian, an information ethics specialist plus two panel members were current/former board members of Access Copyright. The discussion began with Rowland Lorimer explaining to the audience that “a book is just a license in physical form.” Kevin Williams from Talonbooks talked about the challenges of copyright and digital sales in a changing marketplace and Tara Robertson talked about the ridiculous workflows imposed on her job of making accessible versions of textbooks for Langara’s students. I feel that the panel didn’t quite get into the back and forth the way I’d hoped. I think Micheal Vonn’s views on privacy and whether it is possible to be an ethical stealer of information would have been worthwhile to learn about. It was interesting to see people with a stake in the Access Copyright regime defend their York lawsuit and deny that the supreme court had actually ruled on fair dealing, but that occupied only the very end of the presentation (before Tara suggested continuing the discussion over beer).

Outside of Info Policy specific events, Phil Hall‘s Friday session entitled “Are We Irrelevant Yet?” had a good test for what makes us relevant. Librarianship is about an X and a Y added together. The X is “information transfer/empowering people to use information” or whatever your preferred definition is (mine is “facilitating knowledge creation”) and Y is “anything else.” I appreciated that as a way of deciding what we should be doing in our libraries and in our librarianly lives, really. It gives us a way to say that yes, advocating for laws that help us empower people is part of being a librarian, saying yes LAC employees speaking at conferences and sharing the knowledge of their specific Y contexts is hugely important (and shouldn’t be smothered by terrible codes of conduct). Maybe this is a bit of a stretch, but it was a way for me to look at this information policy stuff we go on about and how to explain its connection to day-to-day work in a library serving the public (which I’m lucky enough to do).

Of course, meeting up with librarian colleagues and talking about the shit (cool, bad or otherwise) going down in the world today was a big part of what these conferences are about. I come out of the conference excited to be doing more work with IPC this year and hope you do too.

Trans Pacific Partnership – what you need to know

I suspect you’ll be hearing more from IPC about this shadiest-of-shady trade deals in the coming year. Here’s an excerpt from an EFF interview of Michael Geist which should give you an idea of why:

“(Geist): …[G]iven Canada’s late entry into the TPP process, the US was able to extract two onerous conditions that Prime Minister Stephen Harper downplayed as the “accession process.” First, Canada will not be able to reopen any chapters where agreement has already been reached among the current nine TPP partners. This means Canada has already agreed to be bound by TPP terms without having had any input. Since the TPP remains secret, the government can’t even tell us what has been agreed upon. Second, Canada has second-tier status in the negotiations as the US has stipulated that Canada will not have “veto authority” over any chapter. This means that should the other nine countries agree on terms, Canada would be required to accept them.For now, we’d encourage you to head over to EFF”

For more, head over to EFF and check out the full interview.