New TPP Takes Effect. How Many Copyright Bullets Were Dodged?

The new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is taking effect. Known sometimes as the TPP-11, we look at what copyright provisions were avoided.

It’s been a long and dramatic road for one of the notorious trade agreements around. Just a few years ago, it was seen by many digital rights observers as one of the biggest threats to freedom ever. This is because it contained a laundry list of provisions demanded by major corporate copyright interests.

As some of you may remember, we performed out own independent analysis of the trade agreement, and it was as ugly as you think it is. Provisions include lengthening copyright laws, unmasking domain name owners, making circumvention of a DRM a criminal offence, unlimited fines for copyright infringement, mandating governments to spy on users for copyright infringement, enforcing copyright laws even before infringement takes place, and compelling border security to seize your cellphone at the border for the purpose of protecting copyright laws.

The agreement drew howls of protest all over the world (including in the United States) in almost every sector, not just for those following copyright laws. In 2016, world leaders ignored the will of their respective peoples and signed off on the agreement anyway. At that point, things were looking very dire.

Of course, as almost everyone knows, now US president Donald Trump took power. In one of countless crazed decisions, he pulled the US out of the TPP, marking one of the very few things he ever did that might actually improve things for the world. It’s unclear if he ever really knew what the trade agreement entailed, just that he argued that it was a very bad deal.

At that point, it seemed that the monolithic threat of the TPP went from being almost unstoppable to being pretty much dead in the water thanks to provisions that stipulate that a certain percentage of the global economy must be part of the deal or the deal is off. Well, the deal at that point, is off.

Just months later, Japan and New Zealand spearheaded a campaign to resurrect the TPP. It would then be known as TPP-11, indicating that the US is gone, but the other countries would then go it alone.

With no pressure from the US to push for the most extreme copyright provisions, many of the provisions found in the agreement were rolled back or dropped completely. There are, of course, still concerns surrounding the unmasking of domain name registrants and the lengthening of copyright laws. Still, people aren’t exactly being thrown in jail because they broke a DRM, so it showed a marked improvement.

In March, the new TPP agreement was signed once again. With no US stalling the agreement, it seems that this agreement is going to go through.

Now, the TPP is coming into force. From the CBC:

The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 11-country Asia-Pacific trade agreement revived after being abandoned by the Americans, takes effect today.

Agrifood exporters and consumers shopping for Japanese cars could benefit right away. But Canada’s greater goals for this agreement are strategic.

“Right now, things are a bit sensitive with the United States,” said Brian Innes, the president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, the umbrella group representing most Canadian food producers — grain and livestock farmers in particular — who rely on sales to international markets.

Not all 11 countries have ratified yet. But six did, in time for it to take effect before the end of 2018: Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore. Vietnam ratified a few weeks later, so the CPTPP kicks in there early in the new year.

So, while it is coming into force, it isn’t the case for all 11 countries. Just 6 of them including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico. Other countries will see the agreement come into force moving into the new year.

The question for some countries is how much will the copyright provisions be enforced. You never know what will and won’t be stringently enforced sometimes with international trade agreements. So, we’ll have to keep an eye on various pieces of legislation to see what is and isn’t going to be enforced. Still, when you look at the history of this agreement, it’s actually something of a miracle that we didn’t end up with some of the most brutal copyright laws. While there are still certainly issues, things could have very easily turned out dramatically worse.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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