Tag Archive: PIPA

May 02 2013

Stop TPP: Time to Take Action

I’ve been writing about the Trans Pacific Partnership for over a year, it still flies under the radar in the news media for a number of reasons, the most obvious reason is that the corporate giants don’t want the public knowing how really bad this trade agreement is. It is so bad that Mitt Romney urged Pres. Obama to finish negotiations and ratify it. Those negotiations are slowly coming to a conclusion.

Political corruption and the ‘free trade’ racket by Dean Baker, Al Jazeera

In polite circles in the United States, support for free trade is a bit like proper bathing habits: It is taken for granted. Only the hopelessly crude and unwashed would not support free trade.

There is some ground for this attitude. Certainly, the US has benefited enormously by being able to buy a wide range of items at lower cost from other countries. However, this does not mean that most people in the country have always benefited from every opening to greater trade.

And it certainly does not mean that the country will benefit from everything that those in power label as “free trade”. That is the story we are seeing now as the Obama administration is pursuing two major “free trade” agreements that in fact have very little to do with free trade and are likely to hurt those without the money and power to be part of the game.

The deals in questions, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the US-European Union “Free Trade” Agreement are both being pushed as major openings to trade that will increase growth and create jobs. In fact, eliminating trade restrictions is a relatively small part of both agreements, since most tariffs and quotas have already been sharply reduced or eliminated.

Rather, these deals are about securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests. In some cases, such as increased patent and copyright protection, these deals are 180 degrees at odds with free trade. They are about increasing protectionist barriers.

AS part of these agreements, the worst parts of the zombie bill, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), are being incorporated to “police” the internet.

Foreseeing opposition and difficulty getting the 2/3rd’s majority to pass this nightmare, Sen Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has proposed amendments to a Senate budget resolution that would speed its passage and implementation:

Hatch, who has been pressing the White House to move forward with fast-track authority, intends to offer an amendment that calls for implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is expected to be completed this year, along with a U.S.-European Union trade deal, which is set to begin talks in June, and any other potential free-trade agreements to be done under trade promotion authority (TPA). [..]

Meanwhile, all of these negotiations have been held in secret. Yves Smith writes this at naked capitalism:

Congressional staffers have confirmed that the text of the TPP draft is classified. That means that only people with security clearances, which for practical matters means Congressmen and certain staffers on key committees (House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee) in theory have access. That is already a monster impediment. Congressmen almost never have the time (even where they have the ability) to read long agreements in full and parse how key sections work (which often mean going back to definitions and in some cases, existing law). So keeping most staffers and third parties with expertise away assures that (until the last minute) the discussion and “clarifications” of the provisions under negotiation will come only from parties that are already in the tank.

But practice is even worse than theory. The full draft text is being withheld. And as anyone who has been involved in legal-related drafting knows, the actual language is critical. General terms and concepts that sound innocuous can serve as Trojan horses for all sorts of clever “gotcha” provisions.

Yves also brings attention to an article from Truthout

   Under federal law, members of the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committees are designated official advisers to the USTR. In addition to every Representative and Senator, those panels’ staffers – being on “committees of jurisdiction” – are made privy to the American delegation’s proposals.

   Not a single person in Congress, however – or in any legislature of any country party to the deal – is allowed to even once-over the latest version of the actual draft agreement. In an email to Truthout, USTR spokesperson Carol Guthrie confirmed that senators and Congresspeople on committees of jurisdiction, along with their staffers, are only allowed to see the USTR proposals – not the working agreement. She added that “others at the discretion of the committees’ chair and ranking member” are given access to USTR proposals.

It is time for some cleansing sunshine.

We need to start to take action by calling our Senators and Representatives to tell them to stop this bill that will give international corporations more power that our own government, laws and courts,

Apr 01 2013

TPP: Expansion of Corporate Power

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership continued under wraps in Singapore earlier this month.

The 16th round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) began in Singapore today, as trade delegates and private stakeholders from 11 participating countries gather to discuss this the contours of Pacific trade. EFF and many others are deeply concerned about TPP, because it appears to contain an intellectual property (IP) chapter that would ratchet up IP enforcement at the expense of digital rights. The TPP could turn Internet Service Providers into copyright cops, prompt ever-higher criminal and civil penalties for sharing content, and expand protections for Digital Rights Management. The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has announced that they plan to complete the TPP by the fall of this year.

We say “appears to contain” because the negotiations have been carried out in secret: our understanding of the U.S. proposal is based primarily on leaked texts from February 2011. However, there have been some additional leaks, like those following the USTR announcement that the TPP would include exceptions and limitations to copyright. Despite the USTR’s effort to suggest that introducing fair use into the TPP was its idea, the leaked negotiating text made it clear that the U.S. was likely pressured into agreeing to exceptions and limitations as a concession. The leak also showed that the U.S. and Australia opposed any fair use that would extend to the “digital environment.” Thus, it appears the USTR continues to lobby for ever more stringent international IP standards without much regard for the collateral damage to the public interest.

The AFL-CIO is also concerned that TPP would have a negative impact on basic labor rights, including free association and collective bargaining:

For example, regarding labor rights, the “Outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement” released in November 2011 reads: “TPP (Trans-Pacific FTA) countries are discussing elements for a labor chapter that include commitments on labor rights protection and mechanisms to ensure cooperation, coordination, and dialogue on labor issues of mutual concern,” but fails to mention core labor standards (as determined by the International Labor Organization) or even whether the labor provisions in the final agreement will be enforceable.

Margaret Flowers, a congressional fellow with Physicians for a National Health Program and a pediatrician based in Baltimore and Kevin Zeese, activist lawyer and co-director of It’s Our Economy, discussed the agreements impact on  labor, environmental, and internet rights with Paul Jay of the Real News Network.

TransPacific Partnership Will Undermine Democracy, Empower Transnational Corporations

by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | News Analysis

On critical issues, the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated in secret by the Obama administration will undermine democracy in the United States and around the world and further empower transnational corporations. It will circumvent protections for health care, wages, labor rights, consumers’ rights and the environment, and decrease regulation of big finance and risky investment practices.

The only way this treaty, which will be very unpopular with the American people once they are aware of it, can be approved is if the Obama administration avoids the democratic process by using an authority known as “Fast Track,” which limits the constitutional checks and balances of Congress.

If the TPP is approved, the sovereignty of the United States and other member nations will be dissipated by trade tribunals that favor corporate power and force national laws to be subservient to corporate interests.

Sep 12 2012

TPP: SOPA on Steroids

Since 2007 when George W. Bush lurked in the Oval Office, the United States has been in secret negotiations to cut a trade agreement with several Pacific rim countries called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. Those talks continued under President Barack Obama. I’ve written two articles, the first focused on the how TPP would affect the Internet. The second was on the content of the document leaked by Public Citizen in June of this year. That document (pdf), a work in progress, could without congressional approval  hamper free speech on the Internet, reduce access to affordable medicines, deregulate environmental laws, and harm labor rights, not only in the US but around the world. It could give vast political power to multinational corporations in global trade including power over governments to make and enforce their laws.

In other words TPP is “NAFTA on steroids” and “will broadly strip rights from ordinary citizens in favor of global financial players to an unprecedented degree:”

Today, Amnesty International called on the participating countries, which currently include the U.S., Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, to ensure that any new rules adhere to core principles of transparency and uphold human rights. [..]

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact has the potential to affect nearly every aspect of our lives as Americans,” said Allison Chin, President of the Sierra Club. “Alarmingly, however, is the opaque process in which the trade rules are being written. While hundreds of elite business executives have a hand in writing the rules that will affect American consumers, the public is largely left in the dark. This is a stealth affront to the principles of our democracy.”

Even the ACLU has become involved:

When asked how the TPP relates to the ACLU’s quest to fight for the protection of digital freedoms, the ACLU representatives said, “The TPP relates to the ACLU’s agenda of protecting free speech and privacy online, open government principles and ultimately protecting the Internet as the most open and innovative platform the world has seen.”

“While strong regulations are necessary to protect IP and promote innovation online, these must be crafted carefully and in a fully transparent fashion,” they continued. This is an incredibly important point which must be emphasized. In opposing CISPA, SOPA, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), ACTA, and the TPP, I am not saying that we should not protect intellectual property and online innovation.

To take such a position would be entirely nonsensical since I rely on such protections provided for my work as well.

“We are concerned that an overly broad policy to crackdown on copyright infringement would allow for the takedown of non-infringing content as well, in violation of the First Amendment, which was the same concern presented by SOPA and PIPA,” said the ACLU’s Fulton and Rottman.

“We also have strong concerns over any provision that would create legal incentives for ISPs to step up surveillance of Internet communications in search of suspected copyright infringement, which would potentially endanger the privacy of users. We also believe that whole site takedowns pose serious due process concerns,” they added.

In an article at Huffington Post Robert Naiman made this analogy about TPP’s impact on access to life saving medications:

It is reported that Stalin said, “The death of one person is a tragedy; the death of a million people is a statistic.” Today, a latter-day Stalin might say, “The death of four Yemeni civilians in a U.S. drone strike is a tragedy; the death of a million people because we let brand-name drug companies own U.S. ‘trade policy’ would be a statistic.”  [..]

What we can say with confidence is this: In an agreement that USTR hopes will eventually cover 40 percent of the world’s population, the negotiating position of USTR has reneged on previous commitments the U.S. government has made to promote the ability of governments to pursue public health goals in “trade agreements” rather than undermining the ability of governments to pursue public health goals.

And regardless of anything else, that fact alone should be a national scandal. When, at long last, you nail acknowledgement of a fundamental human right to the wall, it should stay nailed there. We shouldn’t have to fight USTR on access to essential medicines every time they negotiate a new “trade deal.” USTR should cry uncle on this for all time, no matter how much money brand-name drug companies spend on lobbying and political campaigns.

Naiman also points out that this agreement could severely hamper the ability of NGO’s to treat and contain the AIDS epidemic, putting millions at risk. He noted an article posted by  Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders in PLOS after the 19th International AIDS Conference that tool place August 2012 in Washington, DC>. MSF’s US Manager of the Access Campaign, Judit Rius Sanjuan related how this trade agreement threatens the prospects for an AIDS-free generation:

(To) achieve these goals, antiretroviral (ARV) drugs need to be available at affordable prices. Here’s where the contradiction comes in. The U.S. government is promoting restrictive trade policies that would make it much harder for patients, governments and treatment providers like MSF to access price-lowering generic drugs. [..]

Specifically, the U.S. is asking countries to create new, enhanced and longer patent and data monopoly protections for multinational pharmaceutical companies so they can keep competitors out of the market and charge higher prices for longer.

For example, the U.S. government wants TPP countries to lower the bar for patentability, thereby granting pharmaceutical companies new patents on variations of old drugs with little therapeutic benefit for patients. These provisions could stifle the production of less expensive generic forms.  And, the U.S. would make it impossible to challenge a patent’s validity before it is granted – a commonly used tool that helps to prevent frivolous and unwarranted patenting and which is vital to fostering an IP system that rewards innovations benefiting patients.  The U.S. demands also extend patent monopolies beyond the traditional 20-year period and make it harder for generics to get regulatory approval, which will serve to keep generics out and prop up drug prices for longer.

With these demands, U.S. is turning its back on existing commitments to promote public health in trade agreements and is undermining the sustainability of its own global health programs such as PEPFAR and international initiatives like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

President Obama promised that his administration would be transparent, yet he negotiates this agreement behind closed doors. John Nichols, at The Nation said in his article that to show his worthiness to be reelected, the president should back up his “talk”, “walk the walk” and make this trade agreement transparent:  

The secretiveness mirrors negotiations the led to the North American Free Trade Agreement and other deals that have been devastating to the American manufacturing sector. These are precisely the sort of agreements that take away the “level playing field” both Obama and Mitt Romney say they want for American workers. Yet they keep being negotiated by Republican and Democratic administrations because they are not just favored by Wall Street and the multinationals, they top priorities of the CEOs, hedge-fund managers and speculators who form the donor class of American politics. [..]

President Obama spoke in Charlotte about seeking “a future where we export more products and outsource fewer jobs.” Trade agreements play a critical role in determining that future. Good trade agreements, grounded in “fair trade” values and a commitment to aid the workers of the United States and other countries, produce good results. Bad trade agreements, grounded in “free trade” fantasies and the demands of Wall Street speculators and lobbyists for multinational corporations, produce bad results.

What Americans need to know is whether the TPP, which is being negotiated in their name but without their informed consent, is headed in a good or bad direction.

In Charlotte, President Obama declared, “You elected me to tell you the truth.”

It is time for Pres. Obama to make good on his promise about being transparent, open these negotiations to public scrutiny and tell the American people the truth.

He can start by ordering his trade representative to remove the cloak of secrecy, begin serious consultations with Congress and make TPP negotiations open and transparent.

Jun 14 2012

What We Need To Know: Trans-Pacific Partnership

Back in February of this year when we were battling ACTA, SOPA, and PIPA to protect the internet, I wrote about the Trans Pacific Partnership which would have impose even stricter provisions on copyright law and the internet than ACTA. Well, TPP hasn’t gne away and the secret negotiations by the Obama administration has raised serious questions from both sides of the Congressional aisle. The trade document (pdf), which has been a more closely guarded secret than Dick Cheney’s location, was leaked by Public Citizen a long-time critic of the administration’s trade objectives. Their analysis of the stealth policy that is being advocated by the super corporations and the Obama administration is, in a word, frightening.

A leak today of one of the most controversial chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) reveals that extreme provisions have been agreed to by U.S. officials, providing a stark warning about the dangers of “trade” negotiations occurring under conditions of extreme secrecy without press, public or policymaker oversight, Public Citizen said.

“The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of TPP negotiations,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Via closed-door negotiations, U.S. officials are rewriting swaths of U.S. law that have nothing to do with trade and in a move that will infuriate left and right alike have agreed to submit the U.S. government to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals that can order unlimited payments of our tax dollars to foreign corporations that don’t want to comply with the same laws our domestic firms do.”  [..]

The TPP may well be the last trade agreement that the U.S. negotiates. This is because TPP, if completed, would have a new feature relative to past U.S. trade pacts: It would remain open for any other country to join later. Last month, USTR Kirk said that he “would love nothing more” than to have China join TPP.

In one move without congressional ratification, the agreement could:

  • offshore millions of American jobs,
  • free the banksters from oversight,
  • ban Buy America policies needed to create green jobs and rebuild our economy,
  • decrease access to medicine,
  • flood the U.S. with unsafe food and products,
  • and empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards.
  • Zach Carter of Huffington Post reveals that the agreement confers on multinational corporations the ability to circumvent US laws and regulation:

    Under the agreement currently being advocated by the Obama administration, American corporations would continue to be subject to domestic laws and regulations on the environment, banking and other issues. But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings. [..]

    While the current trade deal could pose a challenge to American sovereignty, large corporations headquartered in the U.S. could potentially benefit from it by using the same terms to oppose the laws of foreign governments. If one of the eight Pacific nations involved in the talks passes a new rule to which an American firm objects, that U.S. company could take the country to court directly in international tribunals.

    Public Citizen challenged the independence of these international tribunals, noting that “The tribunals would be staffed by private sector lawyers that rotate between acting as ‘judges’ and as advocates for the investors suing the governments,” according to the text of the agreement.

    Some of the other parts of the agreement would raise the cost of medications, while it would make life saving drugs inaccessible, it might as well have if they’re too expensive. Some of the other provisions would also:

  • Expand pharmaceutical patenting and create new drug monopolies, by lowering patentability standards and requiring patentability of minor variations of older, known medicines.
  • Lengthen drug monopolies by requiring countries to extend patent terms.
  • Eliminate safeguards against patent abuse, including among others the right of third parties to challenge patent applications (pre-grant opposition).
  • Risk facilitating patent abuse by requiring countries to condition marketing approval on patent status (patent linkage). Under patent linkage, even spurious patents may function as barriers to generic drug registration.
  • Expand exclusive control over clinical trial data including through an extra three years of data exclusivity for new uses of known products (in addition to five years exclusivity for first uses) and a new provision on biotech medicines.
  • Judit Rius, U.S. manager of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicines Campaign, referring to the medication rules said, “Bush was better than Obama on this. It’s pathetic, but it is what it is. The world’s upside-down.”

    On the impact on US environmental laws, Margrete Strand Rangnes, Labor and Trade Director for the Sierra Club, an environmental group said, “Our worst fears about the investment chapter have been confirmed by this leaked text … This investment chapter would severely undermine attempts to strengthen environmental law and policy.”

    These negotiations have been going on since Obama took office. They are backed by the US Chamber of Commerce and by the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who urged the US to finalize the deal.

    Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) has introduced legislation for more transparency and House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) leaked a document from the talks on his website. (Hmm. Will Issa investigate himself?)

    So much for this promise from Obama and the DNC (pdf):

    We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications

    And Obama supporters tell us that Romney is worse. Really? I see no difference between the them.

    May 28 2012

    The Internet Defense League

    Back in January, thousands of websites, including Wikipedia, went dark to protest legislation in Congress aimed at combating copyright infringement. Opponents of the bills, known as SOPA and PIPA, said the measures amounted to Internet censorship. And as the web protests went viral, many lawmakers retracted their support for the bills.

    Now, the organizers behind that protest have formed a new coalition aimed at harnessing the same online organizing muscle to fight other measures believed to threaten online freedoms.

    The group is likening itself to the Internet’s “bat signal.”

    The coalition, called The Internet Defense League, was recently formed by the nonprofit Fight for the Future. Tiffany Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future, said the coalition’s members thus far include several web companies and activists who reach millions of Internet users, including Alexis Ohanian, founder of the social news site Reddit.

    “Think of it like the Internet’s Emergency Broadcast System, or its bat signal,”

    The site will officially launch in the next two weeks.

    The story can be found here.

    Apr 29 2012

    Stop CISPA: What You Need to Know

    CISPA, the cyber-security bill which threatens individual privacy rights on the internet, has passed the House, ignoring a possible veto, and will go to the Senate:

    On a bipartisan vote of 248-168, the Republican-controlled House backed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Cispa), which would encourage companies and the federal government to share information collected on the internet to prevent electronic attacks from cybercriminals, foreign governments and terrorists.

    “This is the last bastion of things we need to do to protect this country,” Republican Mike Rogers, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said after more than five hours of debate. [..]

    The White House, along with a coalition of liberal and conservative groups and lawmakers, strongly opposed the measure, complaining that Americans’ privacy could be violated. They argued that companies could share an employee’s personal information with the government, data that could end up in the hands of officials from the National Security Agency or the defence department. They also challenged the bill’s liability waiver for private companies that disclose information, complaining it was too broad.

    “Once in government hands, this information can be used for undefined ‘national security’ purposes unrelated to cybersecurity,” a coalition that included the American Civil Liberties Union and former conservative Republican representative Bob Barr, lawmakers said on Thursday.

    CISPA Critics Warn Cybersecurity Bill Will Increase Domestic Surveillance and Violate Privacy Rights

    As it heads toward a House vote, critics say the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) would allow private internet companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft to hand over troves of confidential customer records and communications to the National Security Agency, FBI and Department of Homeland Security, effectively legalizing a secret domestic surveillance program already run by the NSA. Backers say the measure is needed to help private firms crackdown on foreign entities – including the Chinese and Russian governments – committing online economic espionage. The bill has faced widespread opposition from online privacy advocates and even the Obama administration, which has threatened a veto. “CISPA … will create an exception to all existing privacy laws so that companies can share very sensitive and personal information directly with the government, including military agencies like the National Security Agency,” says Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Once the government has it, they can repurpose it and use it for a number of things, including an undefined national security use.” [includes rush transcript]

    Think Progress has a summery of what we need to know  about CISPA to fight to stop its passage:

  • CISPA’s broad language will likely give the government access to anyone’s personal information with few privacy protections: CISPA allows the government access to any “information pertaining directly to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity.” [..]
  • It supersedes all other provisions of the law protecting privacy: As the bill is currently written, CISPA would apply “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” [..]
  • The bill completely exempts itself from the Freedom of Information Act: Citizens and journalists have access to most things the government does via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a key tool for increasing transparency.
  • [..]

  • CISPA gives companies blanket immunity from future lawsuits: One of the most egregious aspects of CISPA is that it gives blanket legal immunity to any company that shares its customers’ private information.
  • [..]

  • Recent revisions don’t go nearly far enough: In an attempt to specify how the government can use the information they collect, the House passed an amendment saying the data can only be used for: “1) cybersecurity; 2) investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crimes; 3) protection of individuals from the danger of death or physical injury; 4) protection of minors from physical or psychological harm; and 5) protection of the national security of the United States.”
  • Citizens have to trust that companies like Facebook won’t share your personal information: CISPA does not force companies share private user information with the government. {..] Companies may not be legally required to turn over information, but they “may not be in a position to say no.”
  • Companies can already inform the government and each other about incoming cybersecurity threats: {..} opponents of the bill point out that “network administrators and security researchers at private firms have shared threat information with one another for decades.”
  • The internet is fighting back: The same online activists who fought hard against SOPA are now engaged in the battle over CISPA.
  • Most Republicans support CISPA, while most Democrats oppose it: Among congressmen that voted, 88 percent of Republicans supported the bill while 77 percent of Democrats opposed it.
  • President Obama threatened to veto it: Recognizing the threat to civil liberties that CISPA poses, President Obama announced this week that he “strongly opposes” the bill and has threatened to veto if it comes to his desk.
  • Join the Fight to Stop CISPA! Sign the petition:

    Save the Internet from the US

    Write your Senators

    Tell Congress: Keep My Inbox Away From the Government

    Apr 26 2012

    CISPA: Cybersecurity That Leaves Us All Unsecure

    Here we go again with the right to internet privacy and security for the individual being threatened by the government on behalf of corporations. On November 11 last year, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act was introduced in the House by U.S. Representative Michael Rogers (R-MI) and 111 co-sponsors. The bills supposed purpose would allow the voluntary sharing of attack and threat information between the U.S. government and security cleared technology and manufacturing companies to ensure the security of networks against patterns of attack.

    What does that mean, you ask? Well, as Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) explains the bill would allow “both the federal government and private companies to view your private online communications without judicial oversight provided that they do so of course in the name of cyber-security.” Paul calls the CISPA the new SOPA:

    CISPA represents an alarming form of corporatism, as it further intertwines government with companies like Google and Facebook. It permits them to hand over your private communications to government officials without a warrant, circumventing well-established federal laws like the Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. It also grants them broad immunity from lawsuits for doing so, leaving you without recourse for invasions of privacy. Simply put, CISPA encourages some of our most successful internet companies to act as government spies, sowing distrust of social media and chilling communication in one segment of the world economy where America still leads.

    Proponents of CISPA may be well-intentioned, but they unquestionably are leading us toward a national security state rather than a free constitutional republic. Imagine having government-approved employees embedded at Facebook, complete with federal security clearances, serving as conduits for secret information about their American customers. If you believe in privacy and free markets, you should be deeply concerned about the proposed marriage of government intelligence gathering with private, profit-seeking companies. CISPA is Big Brother writ large, putting the resources of private industry to work for the nefarious purpose of spying on the American people. We can only hope the public responds to CISPA as it did to SOPA back in January. I urge you to learn more about the bill by reading a synopsis provided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on their website at eff.org. I also urge you to call your federal Senators and Representatives and urge them to oppose CISPA and similar bills that attack internet freedom.

    This is CISPA (pdf):

  • CISPA could allow any private company to share vast amounts of sensitive, private data about its customers with the government.
  • CISPA would override all other federal and state privacy laws, and allow a private company to share nearly anything-from the contents of private emails and Internet browsing history to medical, educational and financial records-as long as it “directly pertains to” a “cyber threat,” which is broadly defined.
  • CISPA does not require that data shared with the government be stripped of unnecessary personally-identifiable information. A private company may choose to anonymize the data it shares with the government. However, there is no requirement that it does so-even when personally-identifiable information is unnecessary for cybersecurity measures. For example, emails could be shared with the full names of their authors and recipients. A company could decide to leave the names of its customers in the data it shares with the government merely because it does not want to incur the expense of deleting them. This is contrary to the recommendations of the House Republican Cybersecurity Task Force and other bills to authorize information sharing, which require companies to make a reasonable effort to minimize the sharing of personally-identifiable information.
  • CISPA would allow the government to use collected private information for reasons other than cybersecurity. The government could use any information it receives for “any lawful purpose” besides “regulatory purposes,” so long as the same use can also be justified by cybersecurity or the protection of national security. This would provide no meaningful limit-a government official could easily create a connection to “national security” to justify nearly any type of investigation.
  • CISPA would give Internet Service Providers free rein to monitor the private communications and activities of users on their networks. ISPs would have wide latitude to do anything that can be construed as part of a “cybersecurity system,” regardless of any other privacy or telecommunications law.
  • CISPA would empower the military and the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect information about domestic Internet users. Other information sharing bills would direct private information from domestic sources to civilian agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security. CISPA contains no such limitation. Instead, the Department of Defense and the NSA could solicit and receive information directly from American companies, about users and systems inside the United States.
  • CISPA places too much faith in private companies, to safeguard their most sensitive customer data from government intrusion. While information sharing would be voluntary under CISPA, the government has a variety of ways to pressure private companies to share large volumes of customer information. With complete legal immunity, private companies have few clear incentives to resist such pressure. There is also no requirement that companies ever tell their customers what they have shared with the government, either before or after the fact. As informed consumers, Americans expect technology companies to have clear privacy policies, telling us exactly how and when the company will use and share our personal data, so that we can make informed choices about which companies have earned our trust and deserve our business.
  • On Wednesday the White House Office of Management and Budget issues a lengthy statement in opposition to CISPA and a threat to veto the bill:

  • “H.R. 3523 fails to provide authorities to ensure that the Nation’s core critical infrastructure is protected while repealing important provisions of electronic surveillance law without instituting corresponding privacy, confidentiality, and civil liberties safeguards. […]”
  • “The bill also lacks sufficient limitations on the sharing of personally identifiable information between private entities and does not contain adequate oversight or accountability measures necessary to ensure that the data is used only for appropriate purposes. […]”
  • It would “inappropriately shield companies from any suits where a company’s actions are based on cyber threat information identified, obtained, or shared under this bill, regardless of whether that action otherwise violated Federal criminal law or results in damage or loss of life. […]”
  • And finally, it “effectively treats domestic cybersecurity as an intelligence activity and thus, significantly departs from longstanding efforts to treat the Internet and cyberspace as civilian spheres. […]”
  • “If H.R. 3523 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill,” OMB
  • said.

    h/t to Joan McCarter at Daily Kos for the summery

    We at The Stars Hollow Gazette and Docudharma strongly oppose CISPA and urge you to contact your Congress person:

    Tell Congress: Keep My Inbox Away From the Government

    and to sign the petition:

    Stop CISPA

    Feb 01 2012

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

    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?  

    Feb 01 2012

    “File-Sharing and Monetization Aren’t Mutually Exclusive”

    Neil Young is right – piracy is the new radio

    As an artist who probably makes a substantial income from licensing his music, you might think Neil Young would frown on piracy and file-sharing, but that appears not to be the case, according to an interview he gave at the Dive Into Media conference in Los Angeles. Instead of railing against file-sharers, Young called piracy “the new radio” because it’s “how music gets around.” The musician’s comment puts a lot of the hysteria about copyright infringement into perspective – as we’ve pointed out before, file-sharing and monetization aren’t mutually exclusive, and in many cases a certain amount of so-called “piracy” can actually be good for business, as authors, musicians and even game developers have come to realize.

    Jan 31 2012

    ACTA:The Backdoor to SOPA

    As Wikipedia noted on its website after SOPA and PIPA were taken off the table, “we’re not done yet”. Guess what, they were right, we aren’t done yet and it’s even worse. While we turned our backs on this transparent president was busy working on a “trade” agreement that is even worse than both those bill. It has been in the works since before 2008 and is designed to bypass the constitutional requirement of Senate ratification by calling it an “executive agreement.” Negotiations were held in secret and kept form the public and congress under the guise of “national security.”

    What is this “agreement”?

    It is called ACTA, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is a multi-country trade agreement that, according to Wikipedia:

    {} is for the purpose of establishing international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement. The agreement aims to establish an international legal framework for targeting counterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement on the Internet, and would create a new governing body outside existing forums, such as the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, or the United Nations.

    The agreement was signed on 1 October 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States. In January 2012, the European Union and 22 of its member states signed as well, bringing the total number of signatories to 31. After ratification by 6 states, the convention will come into force.

    Supporting and negotiating countries have heralded the agreement as a response to “the increase in global trade of counterfeit goods and pirated copyright protected works”, while opponents have lambasted it for its potentially adverse effects on fundamental civil and digital rights, including freedom of expression and communication privacy. Others, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have derided the exclusion of civil society groups, developing countries and the general public from the agreement’s negotiation process and have described it as policy laundering. The signature of the EU and many of its member states resulted in the resignation in protest of the European Parliament’s appointed rapporteur, as well as widespread protests across Poland.

    The negotiations for the ACTA treaty were conducted behind closed doors until a series of leaked documents relating to the negotiations emerged.

    On 22 May 2008, a discussion paper about the proposed agreement was uploaded to Wikileaks. According to the discussion paper a clause in the draft agreement would allow governments to shut down websites associated with non-commercial copyright infringement, which was termed “the Pirate Bay killer” in the media. According to the leaked discussion paper the draft agreement would also set up an international agency that could force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide information about subscribers suspected of copyright infringers without a warrant.

    (emphasis mine)

    The United States already signed ACTA on October 1 in 2011, just before SOPA and PIPA started to get attention. On January 26, 2012, the European Union and 22 of its member states signed as well. After ratification by six member states, the convention will come into force.

    As reported by TechDirt, the Obama’s “US Trade Representative (USTR) has made it clear that it has no intention of allowing Congress to ratify ACTA, but instead believes it can sign it unilaterally”

    Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), for a long time the sole opponent of PIPA, sent a letter to President Obama in October expressing his objections:

    Although the USTR insists that current U.S. law, and its application, conform to these standards, there are concerns that the agreement may work to restrain the U.S. from changing such rules and practices. As you know, the executive branch lacks constitutional authority to enter binding international agreements on matters under Congress’s plenary powers, including the Article I powers to regulate foreign commerce and protect intellectual property. Yet, through ACTA and without your clarification, the USTR looks to be claiming the authority to do just that. [..]

    The statement by the USTR confuses the issue by conflating two separate stages of the process required for binding the U.S. to international agreements: entry and implementation. It may be possible for the U.S. to implement ACTA or any other trade agreement, once validly entered, without legislation if the agreement requires no change in U.S. law. But, regardless of whether the agreement requires changes in U.S. law, a point that is contested with respect to ACTA, the executive branch lacks constitutional authority to enter a binding international agreement covering issues delegated by the Constitution to Congress’ authority, absent congressional approval.

    At the conclusion of the letter, Sen. Wyden requested that the President formerly declare that ACTA is not binding on the US. Somehow, that may not happen.

    On the bright side, apparently, President Obama has found an issue where there is bipartisan agreement as Republican Congressman Darrell Issa (CA) called ACTA even more dangerous than SOPA:

    As a member of Congress, it’s more dangerous than SOPA. It’s not coming to me for a vote. It purports that it does not change existing laws. But once implemented, it creates a whole new enforcement system and will virtually tie the hands of Congress to undo it.

    This video from Inf0rmNati0n expalins how ACTA will effect us as individuals.

    So what can we do to stop this? Get out your keyboards and man your cell phones. Call and email the White House and your elected representatives and tell them “Don’t Mess With The Internet.

    Here are two petitions to sign

    Please Submit ACTA to the Senate for Ratification as Required by the Constitution for Trade Agreements

    End ACTA and Protect our right to privacy on the Internet

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