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Global protest calls for canning SOPA-by-stealth treaty's IP bits

Trans-Pacific Partnership lashed by Wikimedia Foundation and Internet Archive, among others

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Fears about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have surfaced again, with a pair of open letters calling on negotiators to remove provisions applying to intellectual property.

The TPP is a treaty being negotiated among Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Controversially, the treaty's full text has not been released for public scrutiny: citizens of the negotiating nations have generally been told the treaty is in their best interests and they therefore needn't ask too many questions.

That may not sound too bad if you live in non-participating nations, save for two things.

The first is that the TPP is thought to contain provisions a lot like those contained in the hated, and ultimately defeated, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The second is that the USA likes to harmonise its relationships, so if the TPP gets up it will be a way for the USA to bring SOPA to the world, by stealth.

The SOPA-like bits the TPP is widely widely believed to include is requirements for internet service providers to take responsibility for their customers' copyright infringement. As open letter (PDF) signed by Wikimedia, The Internet Archive says, “We are worried about language that would force service providers throughout the region to monitor and police their users' actions on the internet, pass on automated takedown notices, block websites and disconnect Internet users.”

“Irresponsible rightsholders can burden intermediaries with many thousands of automated takedown requests every day, using systems that operate with little or no human oversight,” the letter continues, going on to suggest that compliance costs would be passed on to users. Appeal mechanism are another issue on which the letter takes issues, as it says current automated takedown regimes have resulted in inappropriate blocking of legitimate material.

The second letter (PDF) attacks the expected TPP provision to extend copyright to 50 years beyond the death of a content creator on the grounds that the public domain is stronger the more stuff is in it. Extending copyright, the letter adds, just puts more cash into publishers' pockets at the expense of the rest of us.

The letters are addressed to “ministers and lawmakers of TPP negotiating countries”, most of whom have shown little interest in divulging the text. Some, such as in Australia, have even excluded the media from briefings about the treaty.

Thankfully, US President Obama recently suggested that the TPP's text will be released to the public in November. ®

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