TPP Conclusion Signals Next Big Battle for Digital Rights

There’s been a recent announcement that says the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been finalized. While the announcement may sound like an end, it actually signals the beginning of the next major battle between the people and major corporate conglomerates. We highlight one of the many battlefields: digital rights.

Human and digital rights organizations and advocates are now on high alert. Announcements are coming from around the world that the TPP negotiations have concluded.

Earlier, we examined the latest leak of the TPP and found many provisions that do not favor digital rights. In our wrap-up of these trade deals, we concluded the following:

The TPP aims to ratify the WIPO Internet treaties, remove privacy safeguards for Top Level Domain (TLD) owners/holders, allow copyright terms to ratchet up to 100 years after the authors death or simply up to about 170 years if life couldn’t be established, enforce anti-circumvention laws even if there are grounds for fair use/fair dealing/other exceptions, implement criminal liability for breaking DRM, enforce statutory damages (or “deterrent level” damages) regardless if the infringement is related to commercial or non-commercial/personal activities, government involvement to enforce intellectual property rights, allow rights holders to determine damages in civil cases, allow for enforcement of intellectual property rights if an alleged infringement is “imminent”, the seizure of your cell phone at the border and the destruction of your cell phone if there’s suspicion of infringement, ISP liability, the permission of ISP level surveillance, and a notice-and-takedown system for accusations of infringement.

This, of course, hinged on obtaining leaked content. The final text is not currently known to the public and is still being held secret. As Michael Geist points out, the conclusion of negotiations doesn’t mean the fight for digital rights is over. Instead, it actually marks the beginning because the deal still has to be ratified.

In the mean time, there will be a lot of back and forth arguments between now and when the deal is finalized in the respective negotiating countries. Already, talking points are quickly being established on both sides. For those who are fighting against the secret deal, there will be many numerous statistics of the harmful effects it will have on economies and policy. Citations will range from statistics coming from the markets in various sectors as well as information that has been leaked from the deal itself. Proponents are already dismissing criticisms by simply painting all opposition as being merely against trade. They will also hammer major media outlets with talking points about how great the deal is without citing specifics from the deal because the deal is still hidden away from the public eye.

In the area of digital rights, the Electronic Frontier foundation (EFF) has blasted the deal by saying that “users have been betrayed“. They further state:

Trade negotiators from the U.S. and its 11 Pacific Rim partners announced their agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) today, concluding the final round of closed negotiations in Atlanta and marking the culmination of seven years of secrecy. Throughout all that time, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has acted as a de facto representative of the Hollywood big media lobbies in pushing other countries to adopt the most punitive aspects of U.S. copyright policies—such as our over-the-top civil and criminal penalties—while at best giving lip service to pro-user aspects such as fair use.

The EFF is currently urging users to take to Twitter to express their disapproval.

Earlier, Electronic Frontier Australia joined 14 other digit rights groups demanding that user rights be respected. Hard to say if there was any impact at all among negotiators.

The fight – especially on this front – will likely be extremely difficult. In fact, the difficulty would likely rival that found in the fight against SOPA given that this has an international dimension to it. Another reason this will be a difficult fight is because of the Fast-Track laws put in place that would speed up ratification in the US. If passed in the US, pressure would only increase for other countries to ratify. Naturally, there’s also the many corporate interests fighting to get this deal ratified by others and not just those corporate interests who fight against digital rights.

With so much in the air and so much at stake, it’s not too big of a leap to say that these debates over the TPP are only going to intensify.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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