Hate SOPA and ACTA? Then you’ll love TPP

This week in Chile, informal negotiations are being held on the controversial but little known Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

President Obama’s Office of the United States Trade Representative website describes TPP in rather glowing and, one might say, perfectly innocent terms. Like any bad government idea, it has to be marketed as a good one.

As the website states, TPP is “an ambitious, 21st-century… agreement that will enhance trade and investment among the TPP partner countries, promote innovation, economic growth and development, and support the creation and retention of jobs.” Innocuous wording, really. The type of bullshit one sees in the summary text of any piece of legislation or treaty, or on the homepage of a company website.

Leaked TPP provisions would, amongst other things, make international the US government’s all-encompassing copyright laws; force states to establish or maintain a system that provides for pre-established damages (monetary), which shall be available upon the election of the right holder (entertainment industry); make ISPs liable beyond the DMCA standards; establish legal incentives for ISPs to cooperate with copyright holders in combatting unauthorized storage and transmission of copyrighted materials (legalized corporate extortion); allow for the circumvention of US case law to identify internet users (suspected of storing and transmitting copyrighted materials) for any ISP; and would include the US/Korea side letter (KORUS) on shutting down websites.

In short, it would superimpose a global system on states that would force ISPs to cooperate with rights holders (and states) without due process, as well as let governments monitor internet users in some Orwellian (and ultimately futile) scheme to stop internet piracy. This week’s negotiations are critical in getting the treaty finalized in 2012.

As EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) notes, “TPP countries are holding informal inter-sessional discussions this week to nudge countries closer to agreement on the controversial intellectual property provisions ahead of the next formal round of negotiations in May.”

Why should Americans and other people worldwide be furious about TPP? It is an executive agreement, not a treaty, which means that its terms and conditions can be agreed upon in secret. Hence the leaked provisions referenced and linked above.

A handful of leaders, with teams of bureaucrats and lobbyists, not the billions of Internet users and experts in the field, are crafting agreements like TPP and ACTA, to say nothing of SOPA and PIPA. And if the US can seal the TPP deal, it will potentially revitatlize the currently shelved bills SOPA and PIPA, making them much easier to pass.

World leaders thrive on the ignorance and apathy of their people. The only way to fight back is to raise awareness about TPP and ACTA, and perhaps a critical mass of opposition will help defeat them. We saw a hint of this with the Polish politicians who donned Anonymous masks in protest of the EU’s support and Poland’s signing of ACTA. And, of course, protest helped temporarily cripple SOPA and PIPA.

Similar momentum against TPP, which isn’t as well known as ACTA, must be quickly achieved.