TPP's worst evil: making all future copyright reform impossible

In an excellent editorial, Michael Masnick explains what's so nefarious about the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- the secretive trade treaty whose IP chapter leaked yesterday. As Masnick explains, the worst aspect of this treaty is that it locks in all of our present, overreaching copyright rules, effectively making it impossible for Congress and the Copyright Office to continue their present work on modernizing copyright for the digital age, and ensuring that they can never do so in future:

It's a lie in two different ways. First, there are multiple provisions in here that will absolutely require changes to US law. We'll discuss a few in other posts, but what's much more nefarious and downright obnoxious, is that this would lock in a variety of really bad copyright policies, making it nearly impossible for Congress to go back and change them. And that's a real issue, because, as we've been discussing, Congress is actually discussing copyright reform again. The head of the US Copyright Office, Maria Pallante, has proposed a bunch of changes to copyright law (some good, some bad), and astoundingly, just as Congress is at least trying to have the discussion about whether or not those and other ideas make sense, the USTR is looking to effectively tie everyone's hands by saying "these things cannot be changed," including many of the reforms that Pallante has directly proposed.

That's really quite incredible if you think about it. On the one hand, you have the very head of the Copyright Office suggesting some reforms, and you have Congress beginning the process to explore that. On the other, you have the USTR totally ignoring the sole power of Congress to make copyright and patent law, and effectively saying "you cannot make any of the suggested reforms." And then the USTR has the gall to ask Congress to give up its power to challenge specific provisions in the agreement? While we're concerned about the Congressional copyright reform process, at least it's being done in the open. The USTR has been hashing out the plan in TPP in total secrecy for years.

Who the hell does the USTR think they are that they can flat out override the Constitution and the Congressional process, and effectively block them in and stop any meaningful attempt at copyright reform? All done via a process driven entirely by a few special interests? It's anti-democracy. It's pure corporate cronyism by the worst cronies around.

The Most Nefarious Part Of The TPP Proposal: Making Copyright Reform Impossible

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  1. dacree says:

    So this is all Disney's doing... I suspected as much.

  2. Enforcement is handed directly over to the corporations, so no problem there.

  3. And considering that the Justice Department is currently arguing in court that treaties trump US law including the Constitution then you get a truly frightening scenario.

  4. As awful as this is, I doubt that it's actually TPP's worst evil. The intellectual property issues are getting the most attention at the moment, but there are other provisions of it that could erode governments' ability to regulate the financial sector, protect worker rights, enforce environmental protections, and regulate food safety. It is not about removing trade barriers in the way that most people think but about deregulation and transferring power from governments to multinational corporations. It's being negotiated in secret and set for fast-track congressional approval to prevent any organized opposition. The more leaks and public discussion of it, the better.

  5. People have gotten off their collective asses. It's usually futile in the face of astronomical sums of money. As a case study, Governor Walker of Wisconsin:

    When he signed a bill to remove collective bargaining rights of most state employees, approximately 85,000-100,000 people showed up to protest at the state capitol. Later, when there was an effort to recall him, the petition to recall received one million signatures - about twice the number needed.

    Walker raised $30.5 million dollars to defeat the recall (opponent Barrett only managed to raise $3.9 million). Approximately 2/3 of the money Walker raised came from out of state. Barrett was limited to $10,000 max for individual donations; Walker had no limit whatsoever, opening the proverbial money floodgates. In a totally unsurprising outcome, Barrett lost.

    And a few are still protesting at the state capitol in spite of arrests that took place for the heinous crime of annoying singing.

    There are many other factors in these events, of course, but it's clear to me that the money of Koch Bros & Co handily defeated enormous efforts by and for the public. I realize you said "most Americans" won't get off their asses, not "all Americans." Yet when we do take action in large numbers, it seems that we're still beaten by money and corporate interests.

    I'm not asking whether we should stand up for ourselves against seemingly terrible odds just because it's the right thing to do. That is a different question. But most don't bother, and it's at least partly because they know the powers that be only give a damn about money and self-interest.

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