TPP: The secretive agreement that could criminalize your Internet use
You may already know that Big Media lobbyists are trying to lock down the Internet in Canada through Copyright Bill C-11 and other activities. The Bill includes provisions that would lock users out of their own services and give Big Media giants increased power to shut down websites. The bill is moving to 3rd reading and lobbyists are still hoping to have the power to block websites and disconnect alleged infringers from the Internet.
Big Media lobbyists are also going international; they’re pushing for trade agreements with copyright measures that are far more restrictive than those currently required by existing treaties or legislation in Canada.
Perhaps the most threatening of these trade agreements is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The TPP seeks, among other things, to rewrite the global rules on intellectual property enforcement that would give Big Media new powers to lock users out of our own content and services, provide new liabilities that might force ISPs to police our online activity, and give giant media companies even greater powers to shut down websites and remove content at will. It also encourages ISPs to block accused infringers’ Internet access, and could force ISPs to hand over our private information to big media conglomerates without appropriate privacy safeguards. You can see a more complete list of new restrictions below, but it appears that the TPP would turn all Internet users into suspected copyright criminals. In fact it appears to criminalize content sharing in general.
Backed by megacorporate lobbyists from the U.S., the negotiations around the TPP are largely happening behind closed doors.
While a lot of the information about the TPP is being kept secret, we do however know that informal negotiations recently took place in Chile, which included discussion of online copyright enforcement.
We also know that a round of formal negotiations—which provides no forum for citizen or stakeholder input—is taking place from May 8th to the 18th, in Dallas, Texas. Instead of allowing a proper forum for input, stakeholders are being asked to sponsor a table where they can provide negotiators who might so happen to stroll past with information on particular topics.
The TPP negotiations are not new—they have been ongoing since 2008—but have escaped widespread public attention due to the private operations of the involved parties. The next set of formal negotiations will be the 12th round, with past rounds having taken place around the globe. According to the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, negotiators are seeking to finalize the TPP by this July.
This approach to establishing digital policy is backwards: it is undemocratic and is patently unfair. Any new mechanism to protect content owners needs to be balanced with the rights of Internet users. Without proper citizen and stakeholder consultation and open access to TPP documents, there are no checks in place ensuring that negotiators have the concerns and well-being of global citizens in mind.
List of new Internet restrictions that could be imposed by the TPP (via infojustice.org):
- Currently, Canada’s term of copyright meets the international standard of life of the author plus 50 years. TPP would require Canada to expand it to life of the author plus 70 years.
- Currently, Canada’s term of copyright for sound recordings is 50 years from the first fixation of the recording. TPP would expand this to 95 years in most cases, almost doubling the term.
- Currently, Canada’s Copyright Act criminalizes certain types of copyright infringement for profit. TPP would expand this to cases without any direct or indirect motive of financial gain, as well as cases of aiding and abetting, which could be applied to internet service providers.
- Canada’s Bill C-11 contains restrictive provisions on technological protection measures, but it includes a mechanism to identify new exceptions. (C-11 § 41.21(2)). TPP would increase penalties for circumvention and prevent new exceptions.
- C-11 distinguishes between commercial and non-commercial infringement. TPP requirements apply to both.
- C-11 forbids removal or alteration of rights management information, but TPP would require criminal penalties for such removal or alteration in addition to civil penalties, and expressly limits any exceptions to those for law enforcement purposes.
- C-11 requires a service provider to retain records of individuals against whom they have received notice of infringement. TPP would require judicial procedures for such identifying information to be turned over to copyright holders “expeditiously” upon “effective notification of claimed infringement.” This could require disclosure of personal information without any safeguards for privacy.
- C-11 creates a notice-and-notice system for online infringement. TPP would require a notice-and-takedown system very similar to the American DMCA.
- The TPP would create a new requirement allowing copyright owners to block parallel trade of copyrighted works, preventing the importation of a copyrighted work into a country where the work is unavailable at the same price.
- The TPP’s patent provisions would extend patent terms and damages.