Now if you’re the kind of person who reads this blog, then you have probably already seen the media coverage surrounding WikiLeak’s release of the full draft of the Intellectual Property Rights Chapter of the upcoming TTP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) trade agreement. However, as this is an issue that cuts to the core of why more people should use VPN, we feel that it would be remiss of us to not also report on the story.
Since its inception, observers interested in internet freedom have had grave misgivings about what will be world’s largest-ever economic treaty. Encompassing 12 member states, which account more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP, it will have a profound effect on a wide range of issues, including medicines and biological patents, civil liberties, copyright and innovation, freedom of publishing, internet services, and more.
What the treaty does is effectively expand corporate and copyright interests at the expense ordinary individuals’ economic interests, civil rights and freedoms. That the negotiations and details of the treaty have been kept a secret from public scrutiny, and that the Obama administration has ‘fast tracked’ it so that US Congress will not get the opportunity to discuss or amend any part of it in advance of its intended signing before the year is out, has only heightened alarm.
Now that portions of the treaty have been made public thanks to WikiLeaks, it is clear the TTP is an appalling piece of work that will be damaging to just about everyone except big business. According to WikiLeaks,
‘The 95-page, 30,000-word IP Chapter lays out provisions for instituting a far-reaching, transnational legal and enforcement regime, modifying or replacing existing laws in TPP member states. The Chapter’s subsections include agreements relating to patents (who may produce goods or drugs), copyright (who may transmit information), trademarks (who may describe information or goods as authentic) and industrial design.
‘The longest section of the Chapter – ’Enforcement’ – is devoted to detailing new policing measures, with far-reaching implications for individual rights, civil liberties, publishers, internet service providers and internet privacy, as well as for the creative, intellectual, biological and environmental commons. Particular measures proposed include supranational litigation tribunals to which sovereign national courts are expected to defer, but which have no human rights safeguards. The TPP IP Chapter states that these courts can conduct hearings with secret evidence. The IP Chapter also replicates many of the surveillance and enforcement provisions from the shelved SOPA and ACTA treaties.’
It is little wonder that the so called democratic governments involved have kept details about the TTP secret, as if their electorates knew what was being done in their name there would be a massive public outcry (as there was over the equally horrible ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ a couple of years ago). Incidentally, those in Europe who might be feeling a little smug when reading this article should not only consider the dire effects the TTP will have on all of us, but also consider the equally repugnant upcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which promises to shaft Europe in much the same way (or possibly even worse) as the TTP does.
So what did the leaks reveal?
Some of the ‘highlights’ revealed in the leaked chapter, which effectively aims to export America’s draconian copyright and DRM practices across the globe, include:
- Increasing copyright duration from the US’s already far too long 70 years to a ridiculous life of the author plus 100 years for copyrighted work, 95 years for corporate work and 120 years for unpublished work. The whole point of limiting copyright terms in the first place is to not let prevent restrictive and unreasonable concepts of treating ownership of ideas the same as ownership of property, which would stunt the creativity and advancement of human knowledge that relies on building upon existing ideas. These changes would also have catastrophic implications for all knowledge now considered in the public domain
- Reducing individual countries’ flexibility to define and grant rights such as fair use and fair dealing to its citizens
- Paving the way for draconian copyright measures, such as 3-strikes takedown systems and ISP filtering
- Criminalizing the circumvention of DRM (even when you own the media, or even worse thanks to loose wording, when the underlying work is not even covered by copyright)
- Expansion of patent laws, including the patenting ‘plants and animals’, patenting surgical methods, and not denying a patent solely on the basis that ‘the product did not result in enhanced efficacy of the known product’. The implications of this on innovation and the democratisation of research are difficult to understate, and would, among other things, almost certainly lead to medicines becoming more expensive
- Increased penalties and damages for copyright infringement
In short this is a truly horrible piece of legislation that shifts power and wealth yet further away from the good of the vast majority of the human race to the good of big money business. Thanks to WikiLeaks there may be a big enough public outcry to derail the treaty, but (call us pessimistic) somehow we doubt it, and even if, like SOPA and ACTA before it, it is derailed this time, something similar (and even more secretive) will rear its ugly hydra-like head again soon.
Fortunately we do not have to rely entirely on our governments to do the right thing (because blatantly that’s the last thing they intend on doing). What technology takes with the one hand it gives with the other, and using encryption technologies such as VPN allows us to evade and circumvent the restrictive, fenced in world they, in league with corporate interests, are trying to build.