The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Maira Sutton has a long, engrossing account of the popular protest at the Dallas session of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive treaty negotiation that includes a set of copyright rules that leave SOPA and ACTA in the dust. TPP's organizers -- especially in the USA -- have been hostile to any public participation or transparency. They even ordered a hotel to cancel the reservation made by activists who wanted to host their own parallel information session and then lied about it. Undaunted, activists, civil society groups, copyfighters, and other interested parties continue to dog TPP's heels. The Dallas meeting saw the notorious Yes Men "Corporate Power Tool" award ceremony. Even better, the hotel's bathrooms had their toilet paper replaced with TPP TP, custom-printed rolls that explained the problems with TPP.
Since the official planned event was scarcely sufficient to make a significant impact, Public Knowledge and American University’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property co-hosted a side event for negotiators to learn about the threats of harsh copyright enforcement. The panel included EFF’s International IP Director, Gwen Hinze, who spoke about the unbalanced outcomes non-U.S. Internet users and innovators would face if the current version of the IP chapter were passed. While the event was well-attended, civil society were ultimately forced to bear all the costs to put on this event.
Last week, 32 legal scholars sent a letter to the office of the USTR demanding transparency in the process. Including the release of the text and demand for real participation from civil society, they demanded the immediate release of “reports on US positions and proposals on intellectual property matters that are currently given only to Industry Trade Advisory Committee members under confidentiality agreements.” This is key because there is nothing that could justify the withholding of such reports that simply outline the U.S. position on intellectual property from the public. This is especially true given the fact that the U.S. government’s proposals could impede Congress from engaging in domestic legal reform of legislation regulating IP.
The USTR sent them a preliminary response the following day. Ambassador Kirk essentially blew them off, claiming that they have taken “extraordinary efforts” to have the whole negotiation process inclusive of civil society and the public. In the letter, he compared the level of transparency to Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) meetings, which indeed have always been top secret and therefore offer a laughably low bar of comparison.
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