In 2012, a winning combination of lobbying and street protests killed ACTA, a secretive, Internet-punishing copyright treaty. Now, protesters are being water cannoned in Brussels as they fight ACTA's successor, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It seems like the lesson that the powerful took away from ACTA wasn't to conduct trade negotiations with transparency and public feedback -- instead, they're ruthlessly crushing all protest in the hopes of keeping it from growing.
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James Losey writes, "After the defeat of SOPA and PIPA in the United States attention turned to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in Europe. Like SOPA and PIPA, ACTA raised concerns that excessive measure to enforce copyright online would limit freedom of expression online. And while the approval by European Parliament once seemed inevitable, protests across Europe and advocacy by civil society lead to Parliament rejecting the Agreement in July 2012. But the protest, while highly visible, represented only a portion of the networked advocacy against ACTA in Europe."
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The US Trade Representative is pushing Congress hard for "Trade Promotion Authority," which would give the President's representatives the right to sign treaties like the Trans-Pacific Partnership without giving Congress any chance to oversee and debate the laws that America is promising to pass. With "Trade Promotion Authority" (also called "fast track"), Congress's only role in treaties would be to say "yes" or "no" to whatever the US Trade Rep negotiated -- so if the USTR papered over a bunch of sweetheart deals for political cronies with a single provision that politicians can't afford to say no to, that'll be that.
Not coincidentally, the TPP is one long sweetheart deal with a couple of political sweeteners that no Congresscritter can afford to kill.
The USTR's push for Trade Promotion Authority contains some of the stupidest, easy-to-debunk lies I've ever read. Either the Obama Administration figures that Congress is thicker than pigshit, or the USTR drafted this to give tame Congresscritters cover for selling out the people they represent to the corporations that fund their campaigns.
Techdirt's Mike Masnick has undertaken the unpleasant chore of documenting and rebutting the Trade Rep's falsehoods point-by-point.
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Widespread, global protests killed ACTA, the secretive, over-reaching "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement," which imposed brutal copyright rules on its signatories. But now, the Canadian Conservatives have introduced Bill C-8, which turns ACTA's provisions into Canadian law, and they're fast-tracking it through with little debate or public input.
If passed, C-8 will further criminalize infringement (that is, put Canadians in jail for watching TV or listening to the radio the wrong way), turn the police into private copyright enforcers for the American entertainment industry, and interfere with the trade in legal generic drugs and other products.
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The New York Times has endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership; a trade deal negotiated in utmost secrecy, without public participation, whose text is still not public. From leaks, we know that TPP wasn't just anti-democratic in its process -- it also contains numerous anti-democratic provisions that allow private offshore companies to overturn domestic law, especially laws that allow for free speech and privacy online. TPP is slated for fast-tracking through Congress, minimizing any scrutiny of a deal negotiated behind closed doors before it is turned into law. From what we've seen of TPP, it recapitulates all the worst elements of ACTA and then some. The Electronic Frontier Foundation needs you to write to your lawmaker demanding full and public debate on TPP.
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Since the Bush administration, successive US Trade Representatives have favored secret treaties, made outside of the UN, without any public scrutiny or accountability. Treaties like ACTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership introduce brutal regimes of surveillance, censorship, criminalization, and control in the name of preventing copyright infringement. Only one problem: even if the USTR signs up to the agreement, Congress still has to approve it.
But not for long. A clutch of rogue Congresscritters have introduced legislation that would let the president unilaterally sign the US up to trade agreements that would require changes to US law, without any oversight or debate from America's lawmakers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Maira Sutton has named-and-shamed the lawmakers who're rushing to abandon their duty and hand unchecked power over to the administrative branch. They're heavily funded by the entertainment industry, and publicly committed to undermining democratic, transparent process in favor of back-room deals brokered in the service of multinational corporations. Read on to learn their names, then visit EFF's action center to find out how you can fight the undemocratic "Trade Promotion Authority."
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Rep Alan Grayson (D-FL) is the first Congresscritter to get a look at the text of the super-secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership, currently being negotiated by Obama's US Trade Representative (the Obama administration, like the Bush admin before it, claims that the President has the authority to negotiate and enter into trade agreements without Congress's approval). The TPP has been controversial, as several leaked drafts and discussion documents have shown that the entertainment industry has used it as a vehicle for attempting to win brutal Internet and PC rules, including hard-drive searches at the border, surveillance and censorship powers, and more.
Grayson was dismayed by what he saw in the current draft of the bill, and has affirmed Senator Warren's remark that "If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States."
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The TPP is nicknamed “NAFTA on steroids.” Now that I’ve read it, I can see why. I can’t tell you what’s in the agreement, because the U.S. Trade Representative calls it classified. But I can tell you two things about it.
1) There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret.
2) This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.
3) What they can’t afford to tell the American public is that [the rest of this sentence is classified].
(Well, I did promise to tell you only two things about it.)
I will be fighting this agreement with everything I’ve got.
Senator Elizabeth Warren has written an open letter to Michael Froma, the nominee to run the US Trade Representative's office, calling on him to release the text and negotiating documents for the secretive, controversial Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), whose sweeping and brutal copyright provisions make it clear that this is the next attempt to pass SOPA and ACTA -- the US law and international treaty that flamed out in 2012.
“I appreciate the willingness of the USTR to make various documents available for review by members of Congress, but I do not believe that is a substitute for more robust public transparency,” Warren wrote to Froman, who is now an assistant to the president. “If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.”
Senator Warren Presses White House to Release Pacific Trade Text [Mark Drajem/BusinessWeek]
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Remember ACTA, the terrifying, secret SOPA-on-steroids copyright treaty that the US government tried to ram down the world's throat? Well, it's back, only this time it's called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it's limited (for now) to the Pacific Rim. The TPP negotiators are meeting (in secret, natch) in Peru to twirl their mustaches and cackle, and EFF has posted a great infographic summing up their nefarious plan (see the whole thing after the jump):
The TPP is likely to export some of the worst features of U.S. copyright law to Pacific Rim countries: a broad ban on breaking digital locks on devices and creative works (even for legal purposes), a minimum copyright term of the lifetime of the creator plus seventy years (the current international norm is the lifetime plus fifty years), privatization of enforcement for copyright infringement, ruinous statutory damages with no proof of actual harm, and government seizures of computers and equipment involved in alleged infringement. Moreover, the TPP is worst than U.S. copyright rules: it does not export the many balances and exceptions that favor the public interest and act as safety valves in limiting rightsholders’ protection. Adding insult to injury, the TPP's temporary copies provision will likely create chilling effects on how people and companies behave online and their basic ability to use and create on the Web.
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Do you remember ACTA? It was a broad, Internet-destroying copyright treaty, negotiated with unprecedented secrecy (even Congress and the European Parliament were not allowed to know what was going on in the negotiations -- though CEOs of beer and fertilizer companies were kept apprised on a running basis). Well, ACTA died when the people of the world rejected it, marching by the thousands in the streets, and governments refused to ratify it.
But now it's back. The US Trade Representative gave marching orders to Canada's Harper government, and it has introduced a bill that would force Canadians to obey the provisions in ACTA, even though ACTA no longer exists. From EFF's Maira Sutton:
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The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) posted its 2013 Trade Policy Agenda and 2012 Trade Policy Report, which covers all of its ongoing negotiations over trade agreements. It reports that the US is working with Japan and other negotiating parties “to ensure that ACTA can come into force as soon as possible,” and encourages Canada “to meet its [ACTA] obligations.”
Canada did not miss a beat to satisfy this demand. The Canadian government introduced a bill today to make Canada compliant with provisions of ACTA, paving the way for its eventual ratification. Among the provisions outlined within the 52-page bill are increased criminalization of copyright and trademark law as well as a new authority for Canadian customs officials to seize and destroy goods they can determine to be “counterfeit or pirated goods” without any judicial oversight.
Privacy International's 16-minute mini-documentary from DEFCON about privacy is a great, compact answer to the question, "Why does privacy matter?"
Rebecca from EFF sez, "EFF is proud to announce the winners of this year's Pioneer Awards
: hardware hacker Andrew (bunnie) Huang, anti-ACTA activist Jérémie Zimmermann, and the Tor Project -- the organization behind the groundbreaking anonymity tool Tor. These winners have all done truly important work to protect our digital rights. Join us at the award ceremony on September 20 in San Francisco. Read the rest
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the son of ACTA, a secretive copyright and trade treaty being negotiated by the Pacific Rim nations, including the USA and Canada. As with ACTA, the secretive negotiation process means that the treaty's provisions represent an extremist corporate agenda where due process, privacy and free expression are tossed out the window in favor of streamlined copyright enforcement. If this passes, America will have a trade obligation to implement all the worst stuff in SOPA, and then some. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Carolina Rossini and Kurt Opsahl explain:
TPP article 16.3 mandates a system of ISP liability that goes beyond DMCA standards and U.S. case law. In sum, the TPP pushes a framework beyond ACTA and possibly the spirit of the DMCA, since it opens the doors for:
* Three-strikes policies and laws that require Internet intermediaries to terminate their users’ Internet access on repeat allegations of copyright infringement
* Requirements for Internet intermediaries to filter all Internet communications for potentially copyright-infringing material
* ISP obligations to block access to websites that allegedly infringe or facilitate copyright infringement
* Efforts to force intermediaries to disclose the identities of their customers to IP rightsholders on an allegation of copyright infringement.
Incredibly, it gets worse:
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If the copyright maximalists have their way, the TPP will include a “side-letter,” an agreement annexed to the TPP to bind the countries to strict procedures enabling copyright owners to insist material are removed from the Internet. This strict notice-and-takedown regime is not new—in 2004, Chile rejected the same proposal in its bi-lateral trade agreement with the United States.
A bit of pithy insight from the latest EDRIgram
: "the intellectual property lobby employs too many lobbyists and too few strategists." In other words, Big Content can get lawmakers to do their bidding, even when doing so discredits them and riles up the opposition. (via Beyond the Beyond
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Holmes from Fight for the Future sez, "The Internet Defense League is a post-SOPA network of sites that use their reach to defend and improve the web. Because it can sound the alarm quickly to millions of people, people are calling it a 'bat-signal for the Internet'. The league is launching on July 19th, the same night that the new Batman movie. And the plan is to have actual spotlights beaming actual 'cat-signals' across buildings and clouds in cities around the world. We just launched a crowd-funding campaign. Help plan a party or pitch-in to make them happen."
So on Thursday night, as Hollywood’s latest superhero movie opens in theaters for a midnight showing, IDL members in select cities can celebrate the launch around powerful spotlights rented for the occasion. The spotlights will beam the IDL’s “cat-signal” into the stratosphere, across obliging clouds, or onto neighboring buildings.
Plus we've got a bunch of other cool items for league members who donate.
The Internet Defense League - Protecting the Free Internet since 2012
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As part of my protest against ACTA I signed up to the fightforthefuture.org web page, and asked them to contact my MEP on my behalf, which they did.
Now that ACTA has been defeated, Paul Nuttall, UKIP MEP for the North West and UKIP Deputy Leader, emailed people who had protested, en masse. (I am in Devon in the South West, so he is not my particular representative).
I include the email below, but the interesting part is the forwarded message underneath, which includes a list of all TWO THOUSAND AND TWENTY ONE people who signed up...
33 minutes after receiving the email I received another from Paul Nuttall requesting the recall of the email, a little late really.
I frequently hear from career Euro activists that the Members of the European Parliament have little or no IT expertise and support. Everyone has mixed up CC and BCC at some time or another, but using CC or BCC to send an email to 2,021 people in the first place is poor solution to a common problem. It's the kind of thing that your IT department should be able to sort out for you, by creating a mailing list with a single address whose membership MEPs can manage through a browser.
Update: Lee, who submitted the item, clarifies: "The email wasn't BCCd or CCd to the 2021 petitioners, the email that Paul Nuttall forwarded contained the list of emails in it's body.
Indeed it seems very much like this list of emails was used to create an email group, which Paul Nuttall then used. Read the rest
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Carolina Rossini has a very good editorial explaining what's wrong with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secret trade treaty with punishing copyright provisions that's being negotiated by the USA, repeating the worst sins of ACTA and magnifying them (among other thing, TPP will make implementing the notorious SOPA into a trade obligation for the US).
As Rossini writes, this is no way to make good policy, and undermines the legitimate trade priorities of the US and its partners by entangling them in a dirty, secretive process that has no checks on the excesses of corporate representatives from the entertainment industry.
So, in summary, the USTR has released a public blog post about a secret proposal to expand something – a filtering mechanism on copyright limitations and exceptions – which might have real social, moral, and economic value. And all we know is that the only thing the authors of the proposal really wanted to make public was the fact that no matter what the content was, it was subject to enough international restrictions that it could be effectively gutted. The only thing 21st century about that is they used a blog to tell us about it.
Is the TPP - framed as a "21st century" agreement - the best way to build a 21st century society?
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