The Transpacific Partnership Agreement, or TPP, is a new trade agreement being sought after by the United States with its trade partners in Asia. If signed, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru , the US, and Vietnam would cover goods and services and intellectual property between partner nations. Unlike ACTA, the first draft of TPP hasn’t been made yet, however, content owners in the United States are already attempting to dictate what should and should not be included in the agreement.
A paper prepared by the U.S. Business Coalition for TPP (reported to be drafted by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Motion Picture Association of America) and leaked on the Internet, indicates that rights holders are urging the USTR to include in TPP IP protections more extensive than those present in ACTA. Specifically, the paper suggests that the following issues be addressed in TPP:
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.
This provision actually makes sense. There is no point in copyrighting this sort of information when it is only needed for a short time before it is deleted and of no further use. The fact that such a provision is even needed displays the fact that many companies on the internet are already thinking of implementing such usage of temporary files.
Besides provisions covering copyright length, statutory damages, and circumvention of digital locks (DMCA, WIPO, WPPT), there has been talk of forcing ISPs to act as copyright cops as well as punishing those who commit a single act of infringement the same as someone who commits multiple acts and who may be profiting off of said infringement.
Fortunately, some of the countries negotiating the TPP seem to be aware of concerns with IP provisions in trade agreements. An internal document of the New Zealand government, leaked on the Internet, indicates the government’s reticence to adopt an IP chapter similar to ACTA. The document observes:
“Analysis of the costs and benefits of IP protection shows that there is a tendency towards overprotection of IP in all our societies, particularly in the areas of copyright and patents. The analysis also shows that the optimal rate of protection differs between countries and that it can differ across time as countries move through different stages of economic development.”
“These developments are underpinned by an increasing pressure from rights holders to internationalise a larger array of issues and find international solutions to issues that have only had limited consideration at the national level. This is particularly true for the area of copyright, where rights holders have been seeking the adoption of more intrusive international rules with respect to a range of copyright issues at an early stage of norm development.”
The good news is tat the New Zealand government believes that existing treaties, such as the DMCA, are flawed and were implemented without enough information to formulate an ethical and fair treaty. The bad news is that, while New Zealand government thinks the enforcement of IP and copyright through DRM is bad, they believe it should be monetized instead.
New Zealand also believes that governments should re-evaluate their current treaties in order to bring them up to date with modern technologies while discontinuing the practice of passing any treaties in secret without any civilian oversight.
Many of the current laws and agreements are at least ten years old. Some go back a century or more. It it is vital that these laws be re-evaluated, rewritten, or simply inactivated so that new laws can be created to keep up with the technology that didn’t even exist when they were enacted.
While privacy activists prefer to have the section of TPP’s IP recommendations removed, if it is to be forced upon the citizens of Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru , the US, and Vietnam, then it is vital that the negotiations be publicly held, with input from the public. Without public input, then only those who are directly involved in IP (MPAA, RIAA, etc.) will be the ones dictating policies that affect millions who have no voice.