If you have not heard about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, you are probably not alone. This legally binding trade agreement reached on 5th October 2015 between 12 countries (United States, Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Mexico, Chile and Peru) has been negotiated entirely behind closed doors by government officials and industry lobbyists.
Picture source: The Washington Post
Despite the fact that whatever new rules and regulations under the TPP will impact the lives and livelihoods of many of us, this agreement has been negotiated in secret for years by large corporations and government trade advisers before parts of it was uncovered on Wikileaks.
How TPP could affect you and the rest of the internet.
Under the pretext as a ‘free-trade agreement’, modern trade deals like the TPP are about more than just trade and matters of economic policy. Perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP treaty has been the Intellectual Property Rights chapter due to its wide-ranging effects on internet services, medicines, publishers, civil liberties and biological patents.
Here’s how your internet privacy could be threatened under the TPP:
- Extremist copyright and internet policy provisions that would demand internet service providers (ISPs) to monitor users’ internet activities and regulate what you and other users access on the Internet.
- ISPs are requested to “expeditiously remove or disable access to material residing on their networks or systems” upon notice from rights holders or their agents of alleged infringements. This means opening the door for global internet censorship by setting up a system to remove allegedly “infringing” content from the web without a court order.
- The TPP pact could force ISPs to give up the details of copyright infringers so that rights holders can protect and enforce their copyright through criminal and civil means with few limitations.
Are your everyday internet activities criminal/civil offences under the TPP?
- Under strict copyright provisions, if materials which violate copyright privileges are found on any site ISPs host or a communication they transmit, the legal burdens will fall back on the ISPs. Thus, imposing these legal responsibilities on the ISPs turns them into the digital police, and indirectly obliges them to conduct pervasive surveillances on their customers or block entire websites, purely to limit their own liabilities. The right to Internet privacy as we know it would be compromised as our day-to-day Internet activity would be monitored and restricted. Under copyright laws, ISPs would be granted permission to take down internet content and cut off Internet users’ access for any common user-generated content. As small-scale copyright infringements could be criminalized, it would be at the cost of your rights to Internet privacy and free access to Internet. Violations as simple as sharing a recipe online or writing fan-fiction would be arbitrarily restricted.
- Under the TPP, the terms of copyright protection are proposed to be lengthened, preventing copyrighted works from reaching the public domain for 70 years after the author’s death. Your devices can be confiscated and destroyed by authorities if they are ‘connected’ to infringing activities (even if you participated or not!).
- Editing out watermarks in digital images? Not so fast. According to the TPP, this could be a criminal and civil penalty for those who strip out information for rights management.
- After the TPP, where even non-commercial activities could get people convicted of a crime, it could alter dangerously low thresholds of criminality. Sharing that latest Katy Perry song or Game of Thrones episode online could cause you to end up in prison.
“As anyone who has ever had a meme go viral knows, it is very easy to distribute content on a commercial scale online, even without it being a money-making operation. That means fans who distribute subtitles to foreign movies or anime, or archivists and librarians who preserve and upload old books, videos, games, or music, could go to jail or face huge fines for their work. Someone who makes a remix film and puts it online could be under threat. Such a broad definition is ripe for abuse, and we’ve seen such abuse happen many times before.” – Electronic Frontier Foundation.