Son-of-ACTA, the TPP, wants to legislate buffers

Ars Technica's Nate Anderson takes a good look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the secret copyright treaty whose latest negotiation round just took place in Hollywood (see last night's post about the scandalous abuse of authority by the US Trade Rep in bullying the hotel to keep out civil society groups).

Now, this is a secret treaty, so we don't know most of what's going on in the room, but one jaw-dropping leak is that that the treaty contemplates requiring licenses for ephemeral copies made in a computer's buffer. That means that the buffers in your machine could need a separate, negotiated license for every playback of copyrighted works, and buffer designs that the entertainment industry doesn't like — core technical architectures — would become legally fraught because they'd require millions of license negotiations or they'd put users in danger of lawsuits.

This isn't the first time that buffer licensing was proposed. Way back in 1995, the Lehman white paper, proposed by Clinton's copyright czar to Al Gore's National Information Infrastructure committee, made the same demand. It was roundly rejected then, because the process was transparent and the people who would be adversely affected by it (that is, everyone) could see and object to it.

This is about legislating chip designs and software architecture, and the only people allowed in the room are entertainment execs. The future of silicon itself hangs in the balance. Will Intel and other giants demand a fair, transparent, equitable negotiation process?

Last year, versions of the TPP's US-written IP chapter leaked; its provisions went well beyond even ACTA, which was already the new high-water mark for IP enforcement. Where do things stand now? Are the other TPP countries on board with the US approach? Who knows! It's all secret.

While ACTA at least claimed not to exceed US law, Flynn and other professors allege that the leaked TPP IP chapter does go beyond what's in US law, doing things like extending copyright protection even to temporary "buffer" copies so crucial to digital devices.

As for USTR, it claims to be conducting "an unprecedented fifty-state domestic outreach strategy for TPP," and it's even hosting a largely worthless TPP blog. People can send comments to USTR through a special Web form, and negotiators do take in presentations from civil society groups on some occasions.

Beyond ACTA: next secret copyright agreement negotiated this week—in Hollywood