The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a multinational trade agreement between 12 countries, including the United States.
The pact was signed in February in New Zealand, but it has not yet entered into force - first, signatory countries must ratify the deal at home. The pact faces challenges in Japan, Canada, and other countries, but all eyes are currently on the U.S. Supported by the Obama administration, the deal is being opposed by both presidential candidates.
The agreement threatens to apply restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws around the world and rewrite international rules on its enforcement. The people of participating countries and even their governments have been locked out of the decision-making process, as the meetings where TPP was drafted were held in secret. Big corporations were, however, invited and heard, which is evidently reflected in the draft agreement.
Besides watching out for corporate interests in pharmaceutical, financial manufacturing, and other sectors - which would result in outsourced jobs and suffering manufacturing in some participating countries – TPP is aiming to critically impair internet freedom.
TPP and internet freedom
With TPP, individual rights for freedom of expression, innovation and creativity are at risk. Inability for each country to take a sovereign decision in policymaking and custom law-making that reflect different cultural priorities threatens the future of knowledge. The intellectual property section of the TPP agreement sets standards across all co-signing countries enforcing and setting guidelines to trademark and copyright rules:
Changing copyright terms and regulations. Proposed extension of copyright is to 70 years after author’s death, potentially making it 130+ years protection (author’s life plus 70 years). These barriers to information would hinder peoples' abilities to innovate. In some countries it can cause stagnant culture effect.
Digital content barriers. The new law could create accessibility issues for internet users with disabilities. Under TPP law, tinkering with copyright content would be illegal, even if the goal is to make close-captioning more accessible to those with special needs.
Limitations to freedom of speech/increased threat to journalists and whistle-blowers. The vague language surrounding the “misuse of trade secrets” section could limit free expression and compromise journalistic work. Journalists have always championed the freedom of speech, exposed certain sensitive stories, selflessly hoping to improve the world we live in. Implications could be dire in some countries that fail to have other flexibilities or exceptions protecting freedom of speech.
Uniform punishment standards. Users could be jailed or hit with exorbitant fines over file sharing, and may have their property or domains seized even without a formal complaint from the copyright holder. The entertainment companies had a chance to further their agenda by heavily lobbying negotiating ministers. Internet service providers could be made responsible for enforcing intellectual property rights and this would likely lead to more internet censorship.
How to protect your rights?
- Reach out to local policy makers. What can Americans do to protect their rights? One solution is to reach out to local American policy makers and express concerns on the topic.
- Encrypt. NordVPN (www.nordvpn.com) strongly suggests using encryption on internet-enabled devices. Proxy or VPN service can help secure your private data and assure privacy when going online. NordVPN firmly believes in online privacy and internet freedom, and has a strict policy not to keep customers’ logs. Encryption will become crucial for those who want to protect their online privacy if the laws are ratified.
- Join the community. The leading internet privacy and security experts like EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) continuously organise efforts to educate on this topic. Other groups like citizen.org, WikiLeaks and stoptpp.org have also joined the conversation and provide useful information on the topic.
To learn more about NordVPN, visit www.nordvpn.com.
Jodi Myers, Marketing & Communications at NordVPN