Is TPP Worse Than SOPA, PIPA & ACTA?

    February 5, 2012
    Zach Walton
    Comments are off for this post.

First there was SOPA, then there was PIPA. The Internet beat those back. Then along came ACTA inciting protests around the world. Up next is something far worse and far more secret – the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

For those that don’t know about TPP, which is probably a large majority of the population, it’s a treaty being devised by the U.S. with eight other countries in the Pacific including Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalem and Vietnam.

What many people consider to be the most dangerous thing about TPP is that the negotiations for it are being conducted in absolute secrecy. The public is not being allowed to be involved with the process of this all too important treaty.

WebProNews recently had the chance to speak with Sean Flynn, IP lecturer and director of the Information Justice Program at American University. He explained to us why the negotiations were being held in such secrecy.

The secrecy is being used to try to insulate the negotiation process from broader stakeholder and public input, and primarily is being driven by the USTR. What they are trying to avoid, of course, is broad attention to the many controversial provisions in the agreement which would draw criticism from citizens and businesses in the US and other negotiating countries, making reaching an agreement more difficult. This is because the norms USTR is pursuing are not broadly representative of the full scope of interests within the US or those represented in other countries. They primarily serve the big content industries and brand name pharmaceutical companies, which dominate the formal advising process that shapes the USTR positions. As the recent SOPA debate demonstrates, there are many more interests that need to be taken into account in intellectual property legislation.

Do you agree with Flynn? Are the TPP negotiations being held in secret to prevent public scrutiny and criticism? Let us know in the comments.

Let’s back up a little bit though. The negotiations are being held in secret, but we’ve known about TPP for a while now. We’re just being fed all the wrong info. The U.S. Trade Representative Web site details TPP as a great achievement for the economies of all the countries involved.

We are delighted to have achieved this milestone in our common vision to establish a comprehensive, next-generation regional agreement that liberalizes trade and investment and addresses new and traditional trade issues and 21st-century challenges. We are confident that this agreement will be a model for ambition for other free trade agreements in the future, forging close linkages among our economies, enhancing our competitiveness, benefitting our consumers and supporting the creation and retention of jobs, higher living standards, and the reduction of poverty in our countries.

Building on this achievement and on the successful work done so far, we have committed here in Honolulu to dedicate the resources necessary to conclude this landmark agreement as rapidly as possible. At the same time, we recognize that there are sensitive issues that vary for each country yet to be negotiated, and have agreed that together, we must find appropriate ways to address those issues in the context of a comprehensive and balanced package, taking into account the diversity of our levels of development. Therefore, we have instructed our negotiating teams to meet in early December of this year to continue their work and furthermore to schedule additional negotiating rounds for 2012.

We are gratified by the progress that we are now able to announce toward our ultimate goal of forging a pathway that will lead to free trade across the Pacific. We share a strong interest in expanding our current partnership of nine geographically and developmentally diverse countries to others across the region. As we move toward conclusion of an agreement, we have directed our negotiating teams to continue talks with other trans-Pacific partners that have expressed interest in joining the TPP in order to facilitate their future participation.

President Obama also backs TPP wholeheartedly claiming the same things that the USTR does. He goes over how it will “boost our economies, lowering barriers to trade and investment, increasing exports, and creating more jobs for our people.” He goes on to say that TPP creates a trade network that will be America’s fifth-largest trading partner.

From these statements, it seems like any other trade agreement. Nothing to see here, carry on. Even the Web site’s statement on intellectual property enforcement doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. It says that it’s looking for “an effective and balanced approach to intellectual property rights among the TPP countries.” It goes on to say that they are taking all the proposals of how IP rights should be enforced and considering all their options. This doesn’t actually sound that bad. Too bad last year’s draft of the IP chapter written by the U.S. was leaked online last year.

Knowledge Ecology International ran a quick rundown of the proposed changes to IP laws in TPP. They found that consumer protection was “weak or missing.” They point out three major problems with the wording of the bill last year that should have people concerned.

Overall, the USTR proposal for the TPP intellectual property chapter would:
(1) include a number of features that would lock-in as a global norm many controversial features of U.S. law, such as endless copyright terms.
(2) create new global norms that are contrary to U.S. legal traditions, such as those proposed to damages for infringement, the enforcement of patents against surgeons and other medical professional, rules concerning patents on biologic medicines, disclosure of information from ISPs, etc.
(3) undermine many proposed reforms of the patent and copyright system, such as, for example, proposed legislation to increase access to orphaned copyrighted works by limiting damages for infringement, or statutory exclusions of “non-industrial” patents such as those issued for business methods.

It’s important to note that this leak comes from late last year. The wording could have changed by now for better or for worse. We just don’t know. The absolute secrecy in which the meetings are being held prevent anybody from getting a clear picture on how things are going.

Going back to Sean Flynn, he and his colleagues caught wind of negotiations happening in West Hollywood this past week. He organized a luncheon to discuss TPP while the negotiations were going on to perhaps broker some kind of cooperation between the negotiators and IP rights specialists. As expected, it didn’t go as planned, here’s Flynn’s take on it:

Several weeks ago, global internet policy and health groups became aware that there would be an unannounced meeting of TPP negotiators this week in LA at the Sofitel in West Hollywood. Upon being informed, American University and the Computers and Communications Industry Association booked a conference room in the hotel for the first morning of the negotiation to offer a policy briefing to negotiators on concerns some experts have with a U.S. intellectual property proposal that has been leaked to the public. About an hour after the briefing was advertised to all delegations, including the host USTR, we received a cancellation of our venue by the hotel. The cancelation by Sophie Jones, Event Sales Manager, Sofitel Los Angeles stated:

“I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but unfortunately we will not be able to move forward with your luncheon for Tuesday January 31st. It was brought to my attention that we have a confidential group in house and we will not be allowing any other groups in the meeting space that day. Again, my apologies for the late notice. Hopefully we can work together in the near future.”

After receiving the cancellation, some individuals called the hotel and were able to book a room for a claimed private event not related to the TPP. Apparently only TPP-related events were banned from the hotel at the request of an unidentified party. USTR is serving as the host of this meeting.

The film industry did not have similar problems. Not only were they informed about the TPP negotiation, but were given the opportunity to host an evening tour 20th Century Fox Studies the night before negotiations began, led by a representative of the studio’s government relations office.

The public interest briefing did ultimately take place, after being moved to a restaurant across the street from the main venue. The groups also held a public briefing at USC School of Law, a webcast and documents for which are available at: http://infojustice.org/archives/7511.

It’s obvious that the government wants public disclosure kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly happen that way. During the day of the negotiations, there were protestors outside the hotel making a stink about TPP. Thankfully, Anonymous provided pictures of the protests through imgur.


All of this begs the question of how TPP is any worse than its predecessors. We asked that very same question of Flynn:

After several leaks of ACTA text and the ensuing public outcry, especially over the internet enforcement provisions, the ACTA text improved somewhat. But one can see from the leaked TPP texts that provisions from earlier ACTA versions on issues such as internet service liability, creating a new global DMCA take down regime, and criminal enforcement for non-commercial file sharing, have entered the US proposal for TPP. There are also many provisions in the US proposal that could require alterations of US law. And the general trajectory of the US proposal remains similar to ACTA – it is all about strengthening, lengthening and increasing the aggressiveness of the enforcement of intellectual property rights, with no effort to export the balancing provisions of US law, like fair use, that have been central drivers for innovation on the internet and the protection of free speech. It is a very one-sided proposal.

The U.S. International Trade Commission, which is about as unbiased as you can get in the U.S. government, issued a report on TPP in October of last year. It outlines the problems facing the treaty and what provisions might prove to be the most controversial. Which provision is the most controversial in their eyes? You guessed it – the IP chapter.

Highly controversial; affects especially pharmaceuticals and information technology. Exporters seek provisions beyond TRIPS, such as accession to WIPO treaties. Resistance from importers, competitive producers, national health systems, NGOs. Developing countries may want to regulate bio-prospecting.

The most controversial part, however, in many opinions is the proposed copyright of buffers. For those unaware, a buffer is a small piece of data created in a computer before it plays any kind of file. While under current copyright law, a music label can claim to own the data in the MP3 for a song. These new laws would let them also claim copyright on the data buffer that was created when a user played the file. It’s worth noting that a buffer vanishes after a few seconds of creation. Think about that for a second – every single piece of data on your computer, no matter how small or inconsequential it is, would have a copyright applied to it.

After seeing all the evidence and hearing from both sides, do you agree with Flynn? Or is TPP being made out to be worse than it actually is? Let us know in the comments.

In the end, we may be all overreacting. The wording of the provisions in the current treaty could have changed for the better. The only problem is that it’s highly unlikely. The entertainment industry’s pockets are deep and they want to make sure that they have control of the media for the foreseeable future.

It’s important to note that these treaties don’t only hurt the Internet; they affect physical trade and global relations as well. While the Internet regulation part is important, we have to keep in mind the repercussions outside of our digital playground. I would implore anybody interested to read the ITC’s report on TPP and the leak of the IP chapter to form their own opinion on it.

If you’re in agreement that TPP is no good, what can you do? It’s obvious that the powers that be want as little public involvement as possible. Well, for what it’s worth, there is a submission form on the USTR’s Web site where citizens can submit comments and inquiries about TPP to the higher powers.

What’s more important is to stay informed on all changes to the treaty. The next round of negotiations will be held in Australia in March. While I’m not advocating that you travel to Australia to protest, you can make your voice be heard through a variety of ways in which Flynn points out:

People wanting to get involved should contact their representatives in Congress and write the White House to express their concerns with negotiating new intellectual property laws in secret international negotiations. The next round of negotiations will take place in Melbourne, Australia, starting March 1, 2012. EFF has an action alert out on TPP. It would be great for other groups to do the same and make it easier for people to register their concern. It should also be noted that ACTA, another international IP agreement crafted entirely in secret, is still not in force and could be defeated. The EU parliament will begin considering the issue in March, with a vote scheduled in June. And in the US, the administration is saying that it will not allow Congress to vote on whether to bind us to that controversial agreement. There is still time to halt this course and return intellectual property law-making to domestic legislatures where it belongs.

Until we get more information or another leak on TPP, I’m afraid this is all we have. Once again, it’s important to note that it could have changed. We just don’t know. Until the governments of the world decide that it’s smart business to include their citizens in any international treaties, we aren’t going to know much this or any other treaties that could be around the corner.

Are you concerned about TPP? If you are, what concerns you most from the limited information we have on it? Let us know in the comments.

  • sorceror

    Only the governments are involved, NOT the people. Later when the shooting starts, it will be the people who will die or injured. US has forgotten Vietnam. Amricans will be sent back in body bags and the local population will be buried in unmarked graves. US is the biggest war monger, EVER.

    • http://www.facebook.com/theJamesKenny JamesK

      They started their statement with a lie,

      “The secrecy is being used to try to insulate the negotiation process from broader stakeholder and public input,”

      The initial meeting was in hollywood, with the “stars” unless they are sticking to “broader” stakeholders and not “direct” stakeholders

  • http://www.lovelypixels.com/AAEA/ Steve Lanning

    TPP makes all the sense in the world–especially politically and especially if you consider the ‘get government larger’ mindset of America’s current administration. I would bet heavy that some of the very people who are now complaining about TPP are ones who voted this administration in!

    Why isn’t someone putting this on Drudge and some of the other news outsets?

    Thanks for getting the word out.

  • Big Aussie

    I was beginning to wonder if these secret negotiations had already been written into law.

    I am terrified of the final outcome if they manage to push this through. I will be doing my part to raise awareness of this worst of treaties in Australia.

    From an Australian perspective (I am based in Brisbane, Australia) one of the worst sections of this treaty will be allowing the pharmaceutical companies to take control of the pricing of drugs.

    We enjoy special drug pricing from a Government supported and negotiated program called the PBS. It means the Government Agency negotiates directly with the drug companies to determine a price they are willing to pay.

    When I go to the chemist and purchase a drug which in USA may cost $100 — I could be paying as low as $20. The Government Agency pays the drug company $50 because they will place a single order for Australia for thousands of units of the drug. The Government will then pay the chemist the extra $30 difference.

    If this “treaty” goes through, we in Australia will also be ripped off like the population of USA already is. The drug lords are terrified that the program we have here will be copied throughout the Pacific; and they will lose bucket loads of profit.

    The ISP section of the treaty is also a terrible thing. It is demanding ISPs monitor every piece of traffic going through their servers. if it is found they have missed anything (which Hollywood claims) they will be liable for damages. Sounds a lot like the internet from within China. So much for USA democracy. Scanning for peer-2-peer traffic can easily be extended to whatever any Government wants the ISP to scan for in the future. Big Brother anyone…

    Please do NOT let this treaty go through.

    • Keepleftmotorists

      They – had better not screw with our PBS, any AUS government complicit in this crap will find themselves out the door. People on awakening to your scenario will be baying or blood. I see much anger ahead.

      As for the rest of this developing one world crap……

  • http://www.how-to-recuruit.co.uk johannes

    Excellent data and much needed information. We need more and it needs to be published broader.
    Two points, i like to stress a) the involvement of the pharmaceutical corporations in the whole process, especially because of the countries involved. It sticks out as majorly wrong. Police, Justice, IT industry, public all these stakeholders make sense but pharmaceutical doesn’t really make sense. In the investigation techniques, we start our questioning on the point that doesn’t make sense and ask Why…? Try it and you get to the bottom of anything.
    Also I have seen recent footage of the damage done in the vietam war (Dioxtin spraying) to the 2nd generation of the population. Mass scale of deformations! Control of information is paramount for our people not to see it!
    b) The purpose! what is the purpose of all this? – I am aware of the obvious reasons but there are other factors to look at as well. Why have the pharmaceutical cor. such interest? The answer will lead us to another Why…? and so on.
    This is not a go at these corp. in specific but the new IT technology has and is the biggest threat to existing power houses and “institutions” They do have the power to shut freedom of speech down; they have done so for years by controlling our press and so on.

    • netwarden

      Precisely, with Internet they lose that ‘control’ they enjoyed for those many years. That is why they are so desperate to install some sort of control mechanism to the internet.

  • http://www.worldtravelingartist.com/ Alexander

    What many people consider to be the most dangerous thing about TPP is that the negotiations for it are being conducted in absolute secrecy. The public is not being allowed to be involved with the process of this all too important treaty.

    Means, yes it’s worse! Secrets usually suck the most!!

  • netwarden

    The US government and various US industry attempts to control intellectual property seem to be like cockroaches and the public are dealing with it using a shoe.

    • netwarden

      Censoring c’roaches, really? It seems a little more effort in your ‘bad words’ filter is needed.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/mcg1985/journal Nathan P

    Maybe the web needs a blackout day for TPP?

    • Zach Walton

      The blackout was effective for SOPA/PIPA because it was a US-centric bill that drew attention to the issue and had people calling their representatives. This is no longer the case with things like ACTA and TPP. Many nations in Europe are now backing off of ACTA due to large demonstrations in the streets. I feel the same thing will be required to stop TPP.

  • Terry

    What are you talking about?

    “US is the biggest war monger, EVER.” This statement proves you are a ignorant moron. As the defender of peace and human rights around the world, the US is frequently required to use military actions to defend those who are being raped, killed and imprisoned for no other reason than hate.

    If it wasn’t for the US and it’s military, this world would be a completely different place.

    • Joe

      are you absolutely out of your mind?
      Your dam right the world would be a completely different place.
      Look at history and all the killing the US Warmongers have unleashed on the world – more then anyone else ever.
      Your obvious disillusion is coming some idiot who lives in the most controlled, imprisoned society in the world – the US – lookit up smart AXX – and who died and left it the US’s job to police the world?
      Where in the Constitution is that written?
      How much Better would the world have been without US Interference – Like whom put Saddam Hussein in Power? The eveil dictator shah of Iran, Mubarak, The Kings In Saudi Arabia, on and on the evil empire has stuck its nose where it does not belong and caused the misery and deaths of millions – the one and only United Police States of America – your a GD joke of illusion with words of freedom and liberty but the truth is death, destruction, torture, Fascism, Socialism, sheeple live in what has become the land of the lie of the free and land of the enslaved.
      FY Terry and your grand illusion – you can give this here REAL AMERICAN back his Constitutional Land of Freedom, Liberty, and Justice for all any day and you can just get the hell out taking all those pieces of Treasonous garbage currently in power with you that bow down to the corporate dollar and parasite off the people none stop. Wake up ID-10-T

  • http://RetroChalet.blogspot.com Cindy

    WTH is this now. Since when would our government not take into consideration our voice and “in freedom and justice for all.” This bill will cause riots and protests. When will these lawmakers listen to the people?

    • Cj

      “When will these lawmakers listen to the people?”

      The answer is never – they are power mad. DO NOT for one minute believe that SOPA, PIPA, ACTA and others are dead and buried. They will keep coming back time and again. Freedom requires constant vigilance. The Internet provides the best monitor on Government activity in the history of mankind. It is the first time governments can be peacefully controlled through direct response from the people. Those in government generally want to control, they do not want to be controlled.

  • Boo Boo

    How many of these damn things are out there ? PIPA /SOPA /ACTA / now this , WTF ! WTF ! Is Obama so up the ass of big content / big business that these guys can just keep pushing these things until something sticks?
    Back the hell off ! The Feds are closing down sites , arresting people ,already ,why do they need more ?
    This is becoming really f***ing sick, like twisted sick.

  • http://www.rainbowriting.com Karen Cole

    I feel rather left out in the cold, but I am mostly concerned about the effects on scraping – what will it be impacted by – is it still okay to scrape from other websites as long as you give a link back to where you scraped an important news item from? Also, will it impact my ability to run my small online business?

  • D

    In practice free trade deals often have other deals tied in with them such as foreign investment and intellectual property. From what gets liberalised and what doesn’t, it is quite clear that many free trade deals are aimed at exploiting the poor. Free trade deals usually mean:
    • Tariffs must be reduced or removed but subsidies are still allowed.
    • Capital must be allowed to flow more freely between countries but governments are still allowed to restrict the flow of labour into their country.
    • Patents extend beyond the borders of their country of origin.

  • Angry Humanitarian

    Free trade and foreign investment liberalisation places environmental sustainability, healthcare, education, and the well being of the local population at a lower priority to being ‘internationally competitive’. It has increased inequality both within and between nations, and has made democratically elected governments powerless to take bold steps towards sustainability and social development.

  • http://damescribe.hubpages.com/ Gin

    I can understand the need for a ‘business’ wanting to protect their ‘secret formula’s’ but to extend it to include freedom of voice for the ordinary citizen – well, I’d think that’s a control tool to allow abuse of powers.

  • Angry Humanitarian

    If a country has an emerging industry, its chances of becoming fully developed might be crushed under a free trade deal with a country which has that industry fully developed. A temporary tariff could make that industry competitive in the future even after the tariff is removed. USA’s protection policies of the past allowed its industries to develop. Its industrial development helped build it into a super power. A country won’t be able to trade its way out of poverty if its only comparative advantage is in the market for sweat shop labour for multinationals.

    Even when a country is developed, free trade isn’t necessarily going to be a good thing. Under a free trade deal, some local firms could be out competed by foreign competition based purely on the low wages which result from the government of the foreign country having unionists shot, allowing slave labour, child labour and sweat shop conditions to exist or having absolutely no environmental regulation. Tariffs could be used to prevent the cost of these morally abhorrent policies from spilling over into the local economy.

  • http://www.lordsutan.com Lord_sutan

    It’s obvious that the powers that be want as little public involvement as possible. Well, for what it’s worth, there is a submission form on the USTR’s Web site where citizens can submit comments and inquiries about TPP to the higher powers.

  • Christopher West

    sounds ot me like the US are just not going to stop until they get something signed….

  • Dr Edward Brell

    Any trade agreement formulated in secret must be questioned and strongly resisted until all the facts are known. (Hopefully not too late).

  • http://www.realsunlight.co.uk/ Lisa

    I fear that many laws are going to be applied to Internet privacy and in the process there would be many battles between companies and congressmen.

  • http://www.bizjaya.com bizjaya

    I wish they would just buzz off and leave the internet alone! I’m from Malaysia and I worry about the copyright issues. Any idea how I can get more involved so my country is not on this list? A petition drive perhaps!

  • David T. McKee

    We really need to get busy building an alternative internet that is not controllable – file-share model based where there is no central indexing service, but is shared so that governments are unable to shut it down. The truth is that the internet was mainly built without these idiots, and it can be built again without them.

    -David T. McKee

  • http://www.michaelromero.info michael romero

    It’s a shame that our own representatives are so stubborn and hell bent on having more control over our lives. It’s “We The People” not “We The Subjects”!
    Personally I’m sick & tired of it. Every body that reads this post should pass it on. I would like to post this on my site with your permission.

  • Clownius

    Well being an Australian if anyone knows when and where these meeting will be held i would be more than interested in joining any protest….

    I have already made my feelings known about the PBS side of the treaty. They can get stuffed. Now they can lay off of the Internet too. This is getting beyond the joke. How many attempts can they make in just a few months before they bloody well realise we aint gonna stand for it?

  • Lagbu Brotvni

    Take your spam somewhere else please