Intellectual Property laws benefitting corporate interests being negotiated in secret

Intellectual PropertyThere is a "secretive, multi-national trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement." Known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), it is being "negotiated" by nine countries including the U.S.

The TPP has a couple of problems:

(1) IP chapter: Leaked draft texts of the agreement show that the IP chapter would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and hinder peoples' abilities to innovate.

(2) Lack of transparency: The entire process has shut out multi-stakeholder participation and is shrouded in secrecy.

The U.S. is pushing hard for "the adoption of copyright measures far more restrictive than currently required by international treaties, including the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)."

Among the more restrictive measures are obligating countries to "Place Greater Liability on Internet Intermediaries...Expand Copyright Terms...and Enact a 'Three-Step Test' Language That Puts Restrictions on Fair Use."

In short, countries would have to abandon any efforts to learn from the mistakes of the US and its experience with the (Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DCMA) over the last 12 years, and adopt many of the most controversial aspects of US copyright law in their entirety.

It is believed that,

"this is likely to further entrench controversial aspects of US copyright law (such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [DMCA]) 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."

Keep in mind this is all happening in secret.

Despite the broad scope and far-reaching implications of the TPP, negotiations for the agreement have taken place behind closed doors and outside of the checks and balances that operate at traditional multilateral treaty-making organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization.

The article asks why you should care:

TPP raises significant concerns about citizens’ freedom of expression, due process, innovation, the future of the Internet’s global infrastructure, and the right of sovereign nations to develop policies and laws that best meet their domestic priorities. In sum, the TPP puts at risk some of the most fundamental rights that enable access to knowledge for the world’s citizens.

The USTR is pursuing a TPP agreement that will require signatory counties to adopt heightened copyright protection that advances the agenda of the US entertainment and pharmaceutical industries agendas, but omits the flexibilities and exceptions that protect Internet users and technology innovators.

Here is how the deck is stacked against us. First:

More than 600 corporate representatives have already had access to the official text of the TPP, while public interest organizations only know what is being discussed at the secret TPP meetings based upon leaked documents.

So the big guns have had ample time and opportunity to peruse and discuss this major change in copyright law. What about us ordinary citizens?

A few days ago, we wrote about how the USTR sent all stakeholders an update: that we would be given a mere eight minutes to present to negotiators, down from the 15 minutes we had in San Diego.

Today, we have received a new email from the USTR that they would actually give stakeholders 10 minutes to make our presentations. That is an entire two more minutes for us to express our concerns to trade delegates over what could become the most powerful trade agreement of the 21st Century

There is something we can do.

If you live in the United States, join EFF and more than 25,000 people in sending a message to Congress members to demand an end to these secret backdoor negotiations...

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