Secret TPP agreement, SOPA on steroids, may be the end of the Internet as we know it

Dirty deals done in secret behind closed doors could signal the end of the Internet as we know it. If you hated SOPA, PIPA or ACTA, then you will despise the stronger Trans-Pacific Partnership version. While the leaked TPP Intellectual Property Rights chapter is a nightmare for netizens fond of Internet freedom, it is a dream come true for Hollywood, copyright trolls and big Pharma.

Trans-Pacific Partnership to make ISP copyright cops, end internet as we know it

It is so bad that one day after WikiLeaks released the TPP Intellectual Property Rights draft, 80 U.S. law professors sent a letter of protest [pdf] to President Obama, Congress and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. Trade agreement negotiations held in secret are “inconsistent with core United States democratic values; the process should be changed,” the attorneys wrote. The TPP agreement is between Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Japan, Vietnam, and the United States; together they account for about one-third of all world trade and nearly 40% of global production.

The EFF warned that “the TPP would let corporations monitor our online activities, cut off our Internet access, delete content and impose fines.” It gives “legal teeth to Digital Rights Management (DRM) tools” and “calls for criminal liability for violations of these anti-circumvention provisions.” In fact, “this criminal liability could apply to people circumventing these restrictions even where the underlying work is not covered by copyright.”

TPP proposes that copyright would apply to temporary copies that computers and networks create. The United States looks like a bully, as there are brackets throughout the incomplete agreement noting objections by various countries. “TPP would make even the transient copies of works made as they pass over the Internet, or stored in a computer's RAM, all subject to copyright,” wrote Glyn Moody. “That would mean that everyone would need to get permission from copyright holders to download or even view any copyright work. TPP is “trying to make the entire Internet a permission-based system.”

Since ISPs could be held liable for copyright infringement, it “could lead to subscriber service termination and content blocking.” University of Ottawa law professor Dr. Michael Geist added, “Moreover, ISPs could be required to monitor their networks and seek out information on infringing activity if consistent with these technical measures….The U.S. approach also requires a privacy override.”

The “leaked treaty is a Hollywood wish list,” wrote Timothy B. Lee in the Washington Post, but also substantially benefits drug companies, the medical device industry and “large holders of copyright and patent rights.” Bill Watson of the Cato Institute added, "It's impressive to me how well this chapter plays into the fears that folks who are concerned about intellectual property expansion have about the TPP. It really seems to be their worst nightmare."

“Where it concerns the Internet and digital content, much of the TPP intellectual property chapter looks like a cut-and-paste from ACTA,” but some proposals are worse. While explaining secondary liability due to indirect copyright infringement, Dr. Monica Horten, a fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science pointed out that the U.S. wants ISPs to be copyright cops responsible “for removing copyright content from the Internet,” or else the ISPs would be liable. TPP “calls for disconnection of users (termination of Internet accounts), blocking and disabling of content, and even some level of monitoring obligation. The US/Australian proposal seeks to include search engines, linking sites" and maybe even cloud computing services. "It sounds to me like a description of a 3 strikes regime."

The U.S. proposes “criminal procedures and penalties ‘even absent willful trademark, counterfeiting or copyright or related rights piracy’,” explained George Washington University professor Susan Sell. “The United States also proposes extending copyright to life plus 95 years for corporate-owned copyrights.” However, the U.S. is against requiring “compensation for parties wrongfully accused of infringement.”

Despite “Obama’s professed domestic commitment to affordable health care,” the U.S. is pushing for evergreening to “extend brand-name pharmaceutical companies’ monopoly privileges.” Say bye-bye to generic competition and hello to higher priced medication and devices. The U.S. wants patents for “new uses of a known product,” as well as medical and surgical procedures; it is the only country proposing “damages for patent infringement of up to three times the amount of injury suffered. The United States and New Zealand oppose compensation for victims of enforcement abuse.” Sells added, “Overall, these provisions would reduce generic competition, reduce access to medicines, and raise drug prices.”

“The text reveals that the most anti-consumer and anti-freedom country in the negotiations is the United States.” stated Knowledge Ecology International after analyzing the leaked copy. “Negotiated in secret, the proposed text is bad for access to knowledge, bad for access to medicine, and profoundly bad for innovation.”

“We're going to see our internet freedom diminished. It'll make things much worse for health care. Prices will go up for both pharmaceuticals and for medical procedures.” Kevin Zeese, co-director of It's Our Economy, told The Real News Network, “This will be corporate power gone wild. It's not going to make things more available. It's going to make things more expensive,” as well as lose more jobs. And it’s headed for being fast-tracked into law.

Fast track essentially undermines the constitutional responsibility of Congress to be the branch of government really responsible for trade. It shifts the power to the executive, the president, without much checks and balances from Congress. It really weakens Congress's role dramatically, even though the Commerce Clause gives Congress the responsibility. So it's a real undermining and turning on its head of the Constitution. 

MPAA’s Michael O’Leary said that it is “important to be clear that the text circulated is not final” and let’s make sure it’s not final. Rise up netizens. The Free Press said, “The chief negotiators are congregating in Utah on Nov. 19–24 to hammer out key details — and President Obama has signaled his intention to move the treaty forward. Now’s the time to put the pressure on. Tell Congress and the White House to reject the TPP.”

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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