What I told those behind the biggest threat to Internet freedom: The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Thanks to all of you who have joined us at OpenMedia in our campaigns, last Friday I had the opportunity to address some of the lead bureaucrats and lobbyists behind the threat to Internet freedom that is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). My goal was to bring the voices of Internet users to their attention and to demonstrate that citizens are watching en masse.

I told these TPP decision-makers that citizens are not going to let them make our Internet more expensive, restricted, and surveilled just to protect Big Media’s outdated business model. I even went so far as to pass around an iPad that displayed a stream of your comments. I made sure it was clear: if lobbyists and bureaucrats are going to try to make new rules for the Internet behind closed doors, we’ll push back and bring open citizen participation to them.

I’ll have a more detailed report-back shortly, but for now I’ve posted the script and slides of my presentation below. I hope you like it.


OpenMedia’s presentation to TPP negotiators

OpenMedia is a non-partisan organization that unites citizens, public interest organizations, and businesses that believe in the importance of an open and affordable Internet. Our network—which comprises citizens and organizations—is over 600,000 strong and continues to grow daily. We work to bring citizens’ and innovators’ voices into Internet and intellectual property policy-making processes. And that’s why I’m here today.

OpenMedia works on Internet issues worldwide, but because we’re a Canadian-based organization, I’ll start with an overview of the state of intellectual property policy in Canada – one of the newest members of the TPP.

To start I want to be very clear that any new Internet restrictions brought in through the TPP’s Intellectual Property Chapter are going to be completely politically untenable in Canada. To demonstrate why, I’ll give you a very brief history of Canada’s Copyright Modernization Act (Bill C-11).

This legislation is the result of ten years of debate—there were no less than four versions of this legislation (Bills C-32, C-60, C-61, and C-11). Bill C-11 finally passed in Canada’s Parliament on June 29, 2012.

Why did it take ten years?

I’ll get into details later but in short, the earlier versions of the Copyright Modernization Act were simply unacceptable to Canadians. University of Ottawa professor, Michael Geist, started a Facebook page one night in reaction to the Canadian government’s first iteration of the Act. To his surprise, it quickly grew to 100,000 members, which clearly indicated widespread anger over the proposed legislation. Following the growth of the Facebook group’s membership, citizens initiated impromptu meetings with our Industry Minister – some drove for hours to meet with him. There were also a range of blogs, YouTube videos, and other online outreach materials that were posted and shared – eventually leading to extensive media coverage. The outrage grew and soon lead to outdoor rallies in several cities.

In reaction to all this activity, the government held a public consultation in 2009, in which tens of thousands took part.

Lobbyists from the content industry, who were looking to protect their increasingly outdated business models, fought for new Internet regulations until the end, but lost. The resulting legislation is relatively balanced, apart from the digital lock provisions which will require new exceptions.

Some of the positive provisions of C-11 include:

  • Expanded fair dealing, including a provision that specifically addresses user-generated content
  • A balanced approach to Internet provider liability
  • Adopting a notice and notice system of online copyright infringement management
  • A $5,000 cap on damages for non-commercial infringement

Librarians, educators, creators, cultural workers, experts, students, innovators, entrepreneurs, businesses, labour, civil society, and citizens fought the earlier versions of the Copyright Modernization Act to more-or-less win a balanced piece of legislation.

What were the initial concerns that led to the public outcry?

Criminalizing usage of the Internet and technology
Website blocking and content removal
Systematic invasions of privacy

Taken together, the consensus view in Canada was that these new regulations would function to lock down innovation, creativity, and free expression. These problems are also found in provisions of the leaked TPP Intellectual Property Chapter. If they survive the negotiation process, these provisions will undo the careful balance that was recently achieved for Canada’s copyright.

As I said earlier, any new Internet restrictions created through the TPP are completely politically untenable in Canada. My hope is that the Canadian TPP negotiators are clear and upfront in making the case that moving beyond Bill C-11 by imposing the TPP’s intellectual property provisions on Canada is simply a non-starter. While we wait for negotiators to make a public commitment to stand by the results of our democratic process, OpenMedia and the wider Internet freedom community will be educating Canadian citizens and businesses to ensure our representatives do not trade away our digital rights.

121,513

That is the number of people in Canada and other TPP member countries who have spoken out through a campaign run by a multi-national coalition of public interest and business groups. That number is growing daily, as more people and organizations make their voices heard.

The TPP’s Internet restrictions are untenable for Canadians – and it’s clear from the number of people speaking out that the dissent extends beyond Canada. We need only to look at the SOPA strike in the U.S., the “I am not a Criminal” campaign in Chile, and the Fair Deal campaign here in New Zealand, to see just how universally unpopular new Internet regulations are.

A right to participate

People are speaking out because of the proposed Internet regulations, but also because citizens in the 21st century believe they have a right to participate in decisions that affect their daily lives. And it’s not surprising that citizens want to have a voice in the TPP’s process – what is being proposed in the TPP’s Intellectual Property Chapter will make the Internet more expensive, censored, and surveilled. I suggest that you open up this process before public resistance boils over further.

To help connect you with citizen input, OpenMedia invited concerned citizens to send us their comments on the TPP through an online tool we developed. Some of you may recall we streamed this citizen input inside the meeting space at the last round, and I want to further that process now.

The online stream of comments is updating in real-time, as you can see on this iPad. I’m going to pass it around now and I encourage you to scroll down, so you can a get a sense of where people stand.

(At this point I handed the audience an iPad that displayed live-streaming citizen comments. The audience was made up primarily of industry lobbyists and TPP bureaucrats, including the United State’s Intellectual Property negotiator)

I also want you to get a sense of who these people are, so here are some pictures of a few people who want to be heard:

(I scrolled through a few pictures that were sent to us. Then finally, I pulled out some of my favorite citizen comments which are as follows):

Cory writes:
“The negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership do NOT speak for the Dakota of Canada. I am also informing you that this "partnership" is proceeding without Dakota knowledge/participation and will be challenged on that basis, regardless of content.”

Graeme, from hosting company Tucows Inc., comments:
“We do not support the lack of flexibility in the notice and takedown regime. As a Canadian business, we generally feel that our new copyright legislation is reasonable, and would encourage Canada to stand by it when negotiating the TPP.”

Leticia says:
“I am a student, and I use my internet connection that I pay for to do my courses. To restrict this is to stifle my education which is highly unfair”

Jordan writes:
“The TPP threatens internet freedom, net neutrality and democracy in general. As a citizen and eligible voter of this country I have a right to be informed as to what happens behind closed doors regarding public policy.”

Adam says:
“Like the printing press, the radio, and the television before it, the Internet is a revolutionary technology for the dissemination of information. Those who have attempted to block, stifle, or control these technologies have invariably found themselves on the wrong side of history. Make the right choice.”

Damian writes:
“I have severe concerns that the language found in the TPP IP leak could be used in fraudulent take downs of sites based on one allegation of infringement. There are too many sites that could fall under that category. Infringing based on buffer copies is clearly something that could be abused. Every time you watch a video online thousands of buffer copies are made.”

Nancy comments:
Can't you just leave the Internet alone. […] I am 84 years old and I enjoy my Internet to keep in touch with friends and the world.”

Jessica states:
“I have the right to choose what I and my family do on the internet and no one has the right to take my personal information[..]”

Andy writes:
“I strongly resent the fact that hundreds of corporate lobbyists have access to and attend these negotiations and are permitted to provide their biased input to these negotiations, while I and the vast majority of ordinary citizens have NO input whatsoever.”

Dorothy tweeted:
“#TPP threatens my ability to communicate on my limited budget, which was forced on me since an accident”

When you hear the concerns of public interest experts, I strongly encourage you to consider that they are here speaking with the backing of millions of people who feel similarly to those I’ve just quoted.

Thank you.


Thank you to everyone who has added their voice to the outcry against the TPP’s Internet trap by spreading the word on social media, sending in your comments, and adding your name to StopTheTrap.net petition. We’ve seen in the past that when policymakers are repeatedly forced to hear how real people will be affected by their plans, they eventually change course. Thanks for being a part of the process – let’s keep going.

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