Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tell Congress: No Backroom Deals to Regulate the Internet

Last week, representatives from nine countries including the United States secretly met in a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a trade agreement with the potential to contain intellectual property provisions that go beyond ACTA.

EFF - These secret meetings could create over-reaching new rules and standards that will choke off the online speech of individuals, websites, and platforms accused of copyright infringement.

But because the meetings are held behind closed doors and the text has not been released to the public, the citizens who will be affected do not know the details and don’t have a voice.

What they met to discuss:

Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a secretive, multi-nation trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property laws across the globe.

The nine nations currently negotiating the TPP are the U.S., Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam. Expected to be finalized in November 2011, the TPP will contain a chapter on Intellectual Property (copyright, trademarks, patents and perhaps geographical indications) that will have a broad impact on citizens’ rights,  the future of the Internet’s global infrastructure, and innovation across the world. A leaked version of the February 2011 draft U.S. TPP Intellectual Property Rights Chapter indicates that U.S. negotiators are pushing for the adoption of copyright measures far more restrictive than currently required by international treaties, including the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

The TPP will rewrite the global rules on IP enforcement. All signatory countries will be required to conform their domestic laws and policies to the provisions of the Agreement. In the U.S. this is likely to further entrench controversial aspects of U.S. copyright law (such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s broad ban on circumventing digital locks and frequently disproprotionate statutory damages for copyright infringement) and restrict the ability of Congress to engage in domestic law reform to meet the evolving IP needs of American citizens and the innovative technology sector. The recently leaked U.S. IP chapter also includes provisions that appear to go beyond current U.S. law. This raises significant concerns for citizens’ due process, privacy and freedom of expression rights.

The leaked U.S. IP chapter includes many detailed requirements that are more restrictive than current international standards, and would require significant changes to other countries’ copyright laws. These include obligations for countries to:

  • Treat temporary reproductions of copyrighted works without copyright holders’ authorization as copyright infringement. This was discussed but rejected at the intergovernmental diplomatic conference that created two key 1996 international copyright treaties, the WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.

  • Ban parallel importation of genuine goods acquired from other countries without the authorization of copyright owners.

  • Create copyright terms well beyond the internationally agreed period in the 1994 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IP. Life + 70 years for works created by individuals, and following the U.S.- Oman Free Trade Agreement, either 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation for corporate owned works (such as Mickey Mouse).

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