Tomorrow the 12th round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will begin, but the negotiating countries are still keeping the public in the dark while they strike a deal that may drastically increase copyright protection and enforcement.
The US Trade Representative (USTR) has made precious little information about this round of negotiations publicly available. The USTR’s website only reveals that the negotiations are in fact happening, and that they will be held from May 8 through May 18 in Dallas, Texas. The website also includes a link for stakeholders to register to attend a tabling event, where stakeholders will be able to sit at assigned tables in hopes that negotiators will approach them to ask about their concerns with the TPP. This is much different from the presentation forums that the hosting country has arranged for stakeholders in past negotiations rounds.
Rumors have surfaced, however, about the copyright-related topics that the negotiators will likely discuss over the next couple of weeks. It seems that the copyright-related agenda could include topics like:
- Copyright enforcement, which could include subjects like damages, criminal enforcement, ISP liability, seizure and destruction of evidence, and presumptions that the plaintiff in a copyright law case owns the copyright over the work at issue.
- General provisions, like what other international intellectual property agreements a country will need to accede to before it can join the TPP.
- Traditional knowledge and cultural expression, (for example, a particular culture’s traditional dances or legends) although it is unclear whether the countries envision this in the framework of copyright protection or limitations and exceptions to copyright.
All of this is guesswork, of course. The US, as the host country, has not revealed anything about the agenda. In fact, the whole process is shrouded in secrecy, especially when you compare it to the process of democratic lawmaking we’ve come to expect in the US.
As a result, public interest advocates like Public Knowledge can never know for sure what kind of information and analysis would be most helpful for negotiators, in contrast to the industry advisors that get special secret access to texts and negotiation documents.
But it’s this kind of one-sided secrecy that makes it even more important that the public’s voice is heard during these negotiations. So PK will be there, manning our designated stakeholder table and explaining the importance of a balanced copyright law to any negotiator who will listen.
You can stay informed about developments in the TPP by visiting our website, www.tppinfo.org, where we will be posting updates and analyses. You can also take action now by signing our petition urging President Obama to inject openness and transparency in these important negotiations.