This week trade negotiators from 8 countries (including the United States) are meeting in LA behind closed doors to discuss the intellectual property chapter of a new international trade agreement.
The recent outpouring of opposition to SOPA/PIPA was an indication of citizens’ outrage, not only at the actual bills, but also at the fact that Congress could be so blind to the public interest in order to please the content industry. While SOPA/PIPA are unprecedented incursions into the Internet architecture, the mindset that caused these bills to go as far as they did, has been at play for a very long time: ratcheting up protections for IP rights holders with little regard for preserving balance in IP laws or due process rights of citizens.
This mindset was responsible for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which solidified a DRM regime that disrespects law-abiding citizens. It was also responsible for bringing about an international trade agreement in the news lately, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA. The most recent international manifestation of this mindset, and the sequel to ACTA, is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – the TPP.
In short, the TPP is a trade agreement involving Singapore, Chile, New Zealand, Brunei, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, and the United States. The agreement includes a chapter on intellectual property that appears to be far worse than ACTA.
We have heard that the countries negotiating the TPP have not agreed on the details of the IP chapter and are meeting in LA this week to work out their differences. Meanwhile, the good folks at American University’s Washington College of Law and Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) have organized a public event to voice concerns, which we at PK share, about the unbalanced substance and the secretive process of the TPP.
It would be a mistake for these negotiations (or USTR processes like “Special 301“) to continue with the mindset that pursuing extremely high levels of IP protection without any consideration for balance, the public interest, or an open process, is the right approach.