Article by Maira Sutton
Secret, undemocratic trade agreements could put shackles on our free open Internet and they need to be stopped before they do.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is being negotiated behind closed doors in a process that not only excludes civil society and public, but also elected representatives that already have proper security clearance are denied the ability to view and participate in the negotiations.
Meanwhile, corporate representatives have full access to the text online. This process is not only lacks any transparency, it’s completely incompatible with our democratic notion of society.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) will hosted the 13th round of negotiations over the TPP in San Diego at the Hilton Hotel. EFF attended the first days of the meeting, both to engage with the negotiators at the USTR-run stakeholder events and to speak and rally outside the meetings to raise public awareness of these shady proceedings.
The TPP carries provisions that would enact the global norms of copyright policy lobbied for by content industry lobbyists. Those provisions would override sovereign national laws and prevent countries from passing, or even retaining, pragmatic copyright legislation appropriate for their own national needs.
It’s a secretive plurilateral  agreement that includes provisions dealing with intellectual property (IP) including online copyright enforcement, anti-circumvention measures, and liability for Internet intermediaries like Internet service providers and hosting providers.
Due to the secrecy of the negotiations, we don’t know what’s in the current version of the TPP’s IP chapter; the general public has only seen a leaked February 2011 version of the U.S. IP chapter proposal [pdf]. Given the corrupt process we’ve observed and what we've seen in this leak, we have every right to be furious that government representatives are negotiating an agreement that will harm online expression, privacy, and innovation on the Internet.
Within the past month, Canada and Mexico have been invited to join the agreement. So while 11 countries are currently involved, the TPP will likely continue to expand to include other nations. Worst of all, it creates a global standard of intellectual property enforcement that is even more flawed than the broken copyright laws established in the United States.
Events Planned At the Negotiations
Many events and actions were planned around the TPP negotiations in San Diego. Seeing how eventful the last round of negotiations went in Dallas and the great number of new organizations that have joined the fight against this secret corporate-fueled agreement, we’re excited to see how the week will play out.
EFF’s International Intellectual Property team was in San Diego to speak out against this international trade agreement and its impacts on Internet freedom, access to knowledge, and innovation.
The first day of negotiations began on Monday July 2, when an internal stakeholder presentation and tabling event is scheduled inside the Hilton hotel. EFF’s International Intellectual Property Director—Carolina Rossini— presented directly to stakeholders about the problems with the TPP’s provisions relating to technological protection measures (AKA digital rights management [DRM]).
A public kick-off rally and press event was held outside the hotel where EFF’s International Intellectual Property Coordinator—Maira Sutton— gave a brief speech to raise awareness within the general public. On Tuesday July 3, the EFF team and Francisco Vera from Chilean digital rights organization, ONG Derechos Digitales, discussed the TPP’s IP chapter and its impact on the Internet.
Organizations Uniting Against the TPP’s IP Provisions
EFF has joined OpenMedia.ca, Public Knowledge, ONG Derechos Digitales, Free Press, and other groups in an international coalition to fight the provisions in the TPP’s IP chapter that would have dire consequences for digital rights. While we have our own action alert targeted at the U.S. Congress, the TPP must also be fought on the international front, so we have endorsed a petition to state leaders and trade negotiators in opposition to all provisions would criminalize or otherwise restrict any use of the Internet. We will be adding more organizations and groups to this coalition in the weeks to come.
Growing Congressional Demands for Transparency
Congress members are finally turning the heat on the USTR to halt these secretive TPP negotiations. Recently, over 130 House representatives sent a letter to US Trade Representative Kirk demanding transparency in the negotiations process.
Also, four Senators, including Ron Wyden , sent a letter to the USTR requesting congressional access to all negotiation documents, in addition to permitting access for groups advocating Internet freedom policies. Representative Issa formally asked to "observe" the negotiations in San Diego, in a move to encourage inclusion of representatives and other stakeholders in the negotiation process.
Over 20,000 people have now taken our action alert aimed at congressional members. And these latest moves from state representations show that they are finally hearing our voices. Help us keep the pressure on Congress and get them to demand that this process become democratic and transparent.
Use these hash tags on Twitter to help us spread the word about the TPP:
#TPP / #NoTPP / #StopTPP
For more information visit:
Other organizations fighting the TPP’s IP chapter:
- Knowledge Ecology International (USA)
- ONG Derechos Digitales (Chile)
- Australian Digital Alliance (Australia)
- TPP Watch (New Zealand)
 A plurilateral agreement is an agreement between more than two countries, but not a great many, since that would make it a multilateral agreement.
 Regular readers may recognize his name: We’re big fans.
Cross-posted from Electronic Frontier Foundation