The TPP: An Attack on the Internet
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, initialed by the delegations of the 12 participating countries in early October, is one of the most talked-about mysteries of our time. The moment the treaty was announced, there was a tidal wave of commentary and criticism: most of it based on previous versions, speculation and a few leaks. Because it won't be published for months (even years perhaps), nobody really knew what the document actually said.
Then Wikileaks, the on-line bible of revealed secrets, published several leaked sections of what its editors believe is the final edition and the collective groan morphed into an outcry. It was, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation puts it, "all that we feared." The TPP internationalizes some of the worst inequities and abuses specific signing governments are currently committing and nowhere is that more true than with surveillance and communications repression.
Its measures deepen the illegality of whistle-blowing and broaden who can be held responsible for it. They use copyright law to make online dissent and online scholarship and research much more difficult. And they chop away at the rights to online privacy.
The deal would fundamentally repress the Internet and, while proponents insist that the agreement would not over-ride the specific laws of each country, it allows and even encourages countries to pass more repressive laws.
It is, in short, a nightmare.
The document itself is written to appear balanced and protective of the rights of both the powerful (companies and governments) and the powerless (users). It reads like a speech a parent gives when the kids are fighting over something: "You take this one, she takes that one". But that seeming attempt at balance is deceptive.
"If you dig deeper, you'll notice that all of the provisions that recognize the rights of the public are non-binding," a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation indicates, "whereas almost everything that benefits rights holders is binding."
The most egregious measure deals with copyright and trade secrets.
A work is protected during the entire life of the copyright and then another 70 years. Essentially, this means that big companies are going to be able to milk copyright protected material for profit for another several generations. Bad enough for the real creators of that "content", who typically are forced to surrender the right to their work by the corporate publisher simply to get their work out there, and to get paid for it, but the implications for Internet users and activists is even worse.