First there was SOPA, then there was PIPA. The Internet beat those back. Then along came ACTA inciting what many users on Twitter are calling the World War Web. Up next is something far worse and far more secret - the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
Ars Technica is reporting that negotiators were to meet in Hollywood this week to discuss the new IP chapter in TPP.
As with every secret process, the people get wind of it and want to be a part of it. Civil society and digital rights groups petitioned to be part of the process and have thus far been barred from any interaction with the proceedings.
Sean Flynn, an American University professor and director of the Information Justice Program, said that public interest advocacy organizations found that negotiations for an IP chapter of TPP would be held at a hotel in West Hollywood.
Flynn, among others, helped to organize a “public interest briefing” that would take place at the same hotel that the TPP negotiations were being held. They sent out invitations to all the delegates that would be at the negotiations including the U.S. Trade Representative. An hour after the invite was sent, the hotel sent a message canceling their meeting:
“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 getting wind of this, a group called the hotel to book another private event that was not associated with the TPP. The hotel was more than happy to oblige. It would seem that only TPP-related events were not allowed at the hotel at the “request of an unidentified party.”
That didn’t stop them from holding a meeting on TPP, however, with the group moving the luncheon to a restaurant across the street. There was also a two-hour conference on TPP held at the USC Law School. You can watch the entirety of the conference here.
At the same time, there were protests being held on the street outside the hotel with people holding signs saying, “Secret meeting here” and “TPP Trading for the one percent.” Anonymous uploaded some pictures from the event to imgur.
Fortunately for us, parts of the TPP IP chapter were leaked online. You can bet that the provisions set into place last year have changed by now. We don’t know what kind of changes and most likely wont until another leak or when it goes into law.
The USTR Web site details very little about TPP while claiming to offer a lot of knowledge on the treaty. What we get is a broad explanation of the provisions of the bill. This is what the USTR Web site has to say on the IP provisions in the treaty:
TPP countries have agreed to reinforce and develop existing World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) rights and obligations to ensure an effective and balanced approach to intellectual property rights among the TPP countries. Proposals are under discussion on many forms of intellectual property, including trademarks, geographical indications, copyright and related rights, patents, trade secrets, data required for the approval of certain regulated products, as well as intellectual property enforcement and genetic resources and traditional knowledge. TPP countries have agreed to reflect in the text a shared commitment to the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.
The US International Trade Commission issued a report on TPP last year that detailed the "expected controversies" regarding the IP rights chapter in the treaty. It expects it to be "highly controversial" with pharmaceuticals and information technology being affected the most. They expect resistance from importers, competitive producers, national health systems and NGOs.
Flynn argues that the IP provisions in the TPP are controversial by far exceeding what is currently in U.S. law. They claim that TPP even extends copyright protections to buffer copies, which are copies of a work that a computer makes before it is played.
For what it’s worth, the public can send a question or comment about TPP to the USTR through this Web form. Ars Technica claims that the negotiators do take in presentations from civil groups on occasion.
This is just one more secret treaty being pushed through secretly without any input from the public. With ACTA protests still going strong, it may be time for people to turn their attention towards TPP. It would go a long way if the USTR were to release a draft of the current treaty for the public to peruse. If our governments want us to trust them, they should trust these all too important treaties to public scrutiny.
What do you think? Is the TPP another attack on our Internet rights? Or are people making a big deal out of nothing? Let us know in the comments.[Lead image courtesy of Free Enterprise]