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Saturday, 01 September 2012 18:00

TPP Copyright Provisions Threaten Internet Freedom, U.S. Sovereignty

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The secretive conferences where delegates are hammering out the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are effectively rewriting the law for the United States, particularly in the area of intellectual property.

The TPP is an international trade treaty currently being negotiated behind closed doors by nine nations located along the Pacific Rim (Mexico and Canada have been invited to join and would bring the total number of participants to 11). The 14th round of talks is set for September 6-15 in Leesburg, Virginia.

As The New American has reported, among the many problems with shrouding the details of such a binding agreement behind a thick veil of secrecy is the fact that if the TPP is approved by the Senate, it would become the law of the land, and the laws of the United States would be subject to abrogation by an international body that is unelected and unanswerable to the people of the United States.

According to a proposed draft version of the treaty leaked to the public, the United States, as part of its membership in the TPP, would agree to exempt foreign corporations from our laws and regulations, placing the resolution of any disputes as to the applicability of those matters to foreign business in the hands of an international arbitration tribunal overseen by the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Furthermore, the text of the agreement reveals that U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk has agreed to place the approval of “domestic stakeholders” (read: large corporations) on a level with that of the Congress. It is precisely this exalting of big business that has troubled many of the people’s representatives in Congress.

Recently Zach Carter of the Huffington Post reported that Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs and Global Competitiveness, was stonewalled by the office of the USTR when he attempted to see any of the draft documents related to the governance of the TPP.

In response to this rebuff, Wyden proposed a measure in the Senate that would force transparency on the process. That was enough to convince the USTR to grant the senator a peek at the documents, though his staff was not permitted to peruse them.

Wyden spokeswoman Jennifer Hoelzer told HuffPost that such accommodations were “better than nothing” — but not ideal in light of the fact that the real work of drafting and evaluating legislation on Capitol Hill is performed by staffers who often possess expertise in particular areas of domestic and foreign policy.

“I would point out how insulting it is for them to argue that members of Congress are to personally go over to USTR to view the trade documents,” Hoelzer said. “An advisor at Halliburton or the MPAA is given a password that allows him or her to go on the USTR website and view the TPP agreement anytime he or she wants.”

A senator of the United States has to beg and plead and threaten legislation in order to be able to gain access to the TPP trade agreement, but corporate interests are given a password by the USTR that grants them a priori access to those same documents.

Now it is discovered that the chapter on intellectual property in the leaked TPP draft agreement launches another attack on U.S. sovereignty through the mandate that member nations enact regulations that requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to privately enforce copyright protection laws.

These private companies — many of which are very small — would be forced to take upon themselves the responsibility of patrolling for and punishing any violation of the copyright laws by its subscribers.

Current U.S. law, specifically the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), would be supplanted by TPP Article 16.3. This provision in the TPP draft document paves the way for a new copyright enforcement scheme that extends far beyond the limits currently imposed by DMCA. In fact, it contains mandates more expansive than even those proposed in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

ACTA is widely regarded as a threat to Internet freedom, as well as to the legislative power of the Congress. If ACTA is a threat than TPP is an all-out frontal assault.

Regardless of the merits of the DMCA, it is U.S. law and should not be subject to de facto appeal by the work of a body of internationalists who are not accountable to citizens of the United States.

Apart from the issues of sovereignty, putting such pressure on service providers is a threat not only to the owners of these small business, but also to Internet freedom, as well.

It is the good work of these ISPs that has created the Internet we know today. Were it not for the typically low-cost access these companies provide, the pool of readily accessible viewpoints, opinions, and news resources would be significantly shallower.

In a post-TPP world, ISPs would be forced to raise prices dramatically in order to cover the increase in their own overhead brought on by the requirement that they monitor and manage the websites they host.

Alternatively, there would undoubtedly be a large number of ISPs who would not only want to avoid the administrative burden of being forced into the role of Internet cop, but who would also rightly regard the risks of providing Internet access as outweighing the benefits.

A story published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation accurately describes the potential problems and predicts the future of the Internet should the United States agree to enter the TPP.

Private ISP enforcement of copyright poses a serious threat to free speech on the Internet, because it makes offering open platforms for user-generated content economically untenable. For example, on an ad-supported site, the costs of reviewing each post will generally exceed the pennies of revenue one might get from ads. Even obvious fair uses could become too risky to host, leading to an Internet with only cautious and conservative content.

As any news organization that maintains a Web presence knows, in the posting of news items time is of the essence. If the regulations of the TPP become the law, then ISPs would be forced to remove immediately any subscriber content posted online that is challenged by someone claiming a copyright infringement. This broad expansion of copyright protection could be devastating to a news organization (or blogger, for that matter) depending for their economic survival on the timeliness of their online stories and on the availability of those stories to the millions of Internet users.

Such procedures bypass the U.S. court system and the Constitution by abolishing the due process owed to those accused of crimes. Rather than require a person to present evidence of an alleged violation of a copyright to an impartial judge, the TPP would also someone to demand that the outlet’s ISP immediately remove the content in question. Any legal proceedings on the merits of the charges would occur after the damage has been done.

Critics understand that this redrawing of the boundaries of copyright law by the globalists secretly deliberating and drafting the TPP is an attack on our laws, our courts, our freedom of expression, our Constitution, and our sovereignty. 

3 comments

  • Comment Link REMant Friday, 07 September 2012 15:36 posted by REMant

    Altho Obama would like to paint his opposition as Puritanical, there is his campaign against Arab family values, against drugs, and against copyright infringement, and it appears the only real guide to whether he supports something or not is if it entails govt expansion.

  • Comment Link MemphisMickey Saturday, 01 September 2012 19:21 posted by MemphisMickey

    Why does Marsha, (Co-Sponsor of SOPA, CISPA), Want Congress to Regulate the Internet? Why not just say NO FEDERAL branch (the FCC and congress and the federal courts included) has any authority to decide or rule on any aspect concerning the Internet?

    BUT Marsha Blackburn did Vote FOR: Patriot Act Reauthorization, Electronic Surveillance, Funding the REAL ID Act (National ID), Foreign Intelligence Surveillance, Thought Crimes “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, Warrantless Searches, Employee Verification Program, Body Imaging Screening, Patriot Act extension; and only NOW she is worried about free speech, privacy, and government take over of the internet?

  • Comment Link MemphisMickey Saturday, 01 September 2012 19:13 posted by MemphisMickey

    Tennessee Congressman Marsha Blackburn (7th District Representative, Republican), wants to look beyond current issues towards new structures and forms of cooperation between the European Union and the United States.

    Yes, my fellow Americans, my congressman is not only promoting the Transatlantic Partnership, she is a Member. Does she represent the Constitution and We the People, or does she represent the European Union ?

    Why isn’t the News media covering this?

    What is the TPN? TPN has been created to promote a strong and stable partnership between the US and Europe, to influence its priorities and help to drive its development. It is a transatlantic “network of networks” whose membership is a unique blend of business, political and academic experience.

    Man, I wish Marsha would READ the United States of America’s Constitution.

    POLITICAL SUPPORT– The European Parliament has voted resolutions in May 2004 and in January 2005 in which the concept of completing the transatlantic market by 2015 is supported. Furthermore, the Parliament also agreed that the transatlantic partners should update the 1995 New Transatlantic Agenda, replacing it with a ‘Transatlantic Partnership Agreement”. These ideas were further endorsed in reports by Elmar Brok MEP and Erika Mann MEP approved by the European Parliament in May 2006. (This line of approach has also been supported by Francisco Millán Mon’s report - March 2009).The US House of Representatives has also passed a resolution endorsing the concept of a “Transatlantic Partnership Agreement” between the EU and the US.
    BUSINESS SUPPORT – Leaders of the Transatlantic Business community were present at the launch of the Strategy Document. They have consequently endorsed the idea of a Barrier Free Transatlantic Market and continue to work towards the removal of all barriers to trade and investment. Their reports to the US-EU Summit held in Vienna in June 2006, Washington in 2007, and Ljubljana in 2008 have clearly endorsed this strategic objective.
    Given this basis, the President of the European Council at the time, Angela Merkel, launched the concept of the transatlantic market in 2007 during the early stages of the German Presidency of the EU. This resulted in the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) being set up at the EU-US Summit in April 2007. This body now handles a wide range of issues of vital importance to transatlantic business.

    So Marsha Blackburn wants to have the transatlantic market in place by 2015, she wants a Transatlantic Assembly (like Parliament), and she (of-course) wants to give them hundred of BILLIONS in foreign aid to strengthen the Transatlantic Monetary cooperation and Transatlantic Capital Market.

    http://www.tpnonline.org/index.html

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