Trans Pacific Partnership: SOPA through the back door?

Heads-up people,  a new threat to online freedoms is on the horizon. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) looks set to be the latest trade agreement that seeks to infiltrate SOPA-like laws through the backdoor, with almost no public consultation or legal scrutiny.

TPP, here we go again

So what is the Trans-Pacific Partnership and who will it affect? The TPP is multi-national trade agreement between nine nations - specifically, the USA, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore and Brunei. Canada and Mexico have also been invited to join the negotiations and are likely to do so.

Unlike recent bills such as CISPA and the UK’s CCDP, the TPP isn’t geared directly toward issues of online surveillance and security. But it does have is a chapter on intellectual property that is very similar to previous copyright-orientated bills, such as SOPA and ACTA, which were largely designed to protect the IP interests of the entertainment industry.

All countries that sign the TPP will have to rewrite their domestic laws to accommodate the new trade agreement. According to a leaked US chapter from the TPP on intellectual property this will include a number of requirements that tighten current copyright laws and infringe on online privacy.

Increased ISP liability

The TPP goes beyond current standards set in the US’ much maligned Digital Millennium Copyright Act and pushes more of the responsibility of copyright infringement onto your ISP. This potentially opens the door to the kind of ‘Three Strikes’ policies that we’ve seen implemented in the UK, whereby ISPs are forced to ban persistent copyright offenders from accessing the internet.

The increased liability faced by ISPs could also require them to increase surveillance on internet communications in order to block potential copyright-infringing material, block access to websites that allegedly infringe on copyright, and force websites to disclose the identities of customers to IP rights holders, if suspected of copyright infringement.

The TPP leaked draft also discusses an agreement that would introduce much stricter ‘notice-and-takedown’ procedures to enable copyright holders to force companies to take down offending material. The agreement, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is virtually the same as the one Chile declined to implement in 2004 at the behest of the US.

No transparency

As is fast becoming standard in such ‘trade agreements’, the discussions around TPP are taking place with little transparency, public debate and legal scrutiny. ACTA was drafted under the same veil of secrecy that was condemned by the very institution – the EU – that was set-up to implement it. The TPP is going down the same murky route.

ACTA, SOPA and PIPA crumbled when the public light of scrutiny was shined upon them. It’s clear that same powers that helped draft those bills are now trying to fly even further under the radar. The TPP will impact countries beyond those that formally sign-up to the agreement and this is well understood by its entertainment industry backers. They know that the more countries who sign up for such draconian copyright protection laws, the more other countries will be pressured into complying and the easier it will be for other governments to implement similar laws.

Take Action

If you live in the USA head over to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website, where you’ll find more information on how to send a message to Congress members. Kiwis can check out InternetNZ, which lets you send a personalised message to the Minister of Trade. While Chileans can head to ONG Derechos Digitales.

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