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Feb 01 2012

Obama’s War on the Internet: Trans-Pacific Partnership

(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Just when you thought that the Obama administration’s assault on the Internet and his plan to censor free speech and creativity couldn’t be worse, Obama gets more creative. Meet the “son of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)”, the Trans-Pacific Partnership which could impose even stricter provisions than ACTA.

From TechDirt

… we were noting calls from the industry for the USTR (US Trade Representative) to negotiate a hardline in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which involves a bunch of Pacific Rim countries …

Apparently, the US government has already indicated that it will not allow any form of weakening of intellectual property law for any reason whatsoever in this agreement. In fact, the USTR has directly said that it will only allow for “harmonizing” intellectual property regulations “strictly upwards,” meaning greater protectionism. Given the mounds of evidence suggesting that over protection via such laws is damaging to the economy, this is immensely troubling, and once again shows how the USTR is making policy by ignoring data. This is scary.

Both ACTA and TPP are backed by the US Business Coalition whose members include the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Motion Picture Association of America. There’s that guy Dodd again. These are some of the issues that they want TPP to address and how they would effect you and the Internet. Rashmi Rangnath rrom the policy blog Public Knowledge highlights the demands:

  • Temporary copies: The US Business Coalition paper urges TPP countries to include a provision requiring protection for temporary copies. Temporary copies are copies made when you access webpages, or music, or any other content on the Internet. In addition, your computer makes transient copies, such a buffer copies, in the course of replaying such content. These copies have no value independent of the ultimate use they facilitate – your viewing of the movie or listening to the music. Treating them as worthy of copyright protection allows rights holders to claim additional rents where none are due.
  • Circumvention of digital locks: The paper urges TPP countries to prevent circumvention of digital locks. The WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) were the first international instruments to impose this obligation on countries. Within the U.S., these treaties were cited as the reason for the enactment of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The harms caused by the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions have been well documented. In a nutshell, while on the one hand the DMCA attempts to prevent copyright infringement by prohibiting an infringer from breaking digital locks (ex: locks used on DVDs) on the other hand, it also prevents lawful uses (ex: preventing you from breaking the locks on the DVD you purchased to play it on your computer running on Linux).
  • Copyright terms: The paper urges the TPP to provide for longer copyright terms. Current copyright term in the U.S. is life of the author plus 70 years. The TRIPS agreement, which is the baseline IP agreement to which most countries adhere, requires a copyright protection for life of the author plus 50 years. …

    Too often, copyright owners lose interest in works whose commercial lives have ended; works become obscure; and historians, educators and documentarians interested in using the work cannot do so because they cannot find the owner to seek permission to use the work. All of this warrants a reassessment of the proper copyright term, not an extension of current copyright terms.
  • Statutory damages: The paper urges TPP to include a provision on statutory damages, ostensibly similar to the U.S. statutory damages regime. As PK and its allies have pointed out, the U.S. statutory damages regime has led to excessively large damages awards. This regime has resulted in discouraging reliance on fair use thereby stifling innovation because of the threat of a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

The coalition suggests many other worrisome provisions such as requiring ISPs to act as copyright cops and treating individual infringers with the same severity as large-scale pirates.

The author of this article makes particular note that the Obama administration has been very careful not to share the text of the “agreement with the public while it was given to the corporate insiders and the nations involved in the negotiations.

What was that President Obama said about “transparency”? Is this what he means when he says that he values the Constitution?  

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