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Top 5 ways lobbyists win and you lose with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

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Something very important happened this week.

For the first time, Presidents and Prime Ministers of several countries met with industry lobbyists to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bali, Indonesia. Although U.S. President Obama suddenly announced he would not be joining these discussions, industry lobbyists are hoping to push through TPP talks to finalize the agreement.

What exactly is the TPP? It’s been called one of the most significant international trade agreements since the creation of the World Trade Organization -- but you’d be forgiven for not knowing about it. Discussions about this monumental agreement have been so secret that the little we know about the text is from leaked documents -- documents that show we have grave reason to be concerned.

One of its most troubling chapters includes an extreme Internet censorship plan that could break your digital future. Here are the top five ways the TPP censors the Internet and why it should concern you:

5. The TPP could criminalize small-scale copyright infringement

The next time you want to share a song or a recipe online, you’d have to ask yourself: Am I a criminal? Interested in writing some fan fiction based on your favourite detective series and sharing it online? Ask yourself that very same question. That’s how TPP provisions could characterize you based on what we know about its Intellectual Property chapter.

According to the leaked drafts, unauthorized small-scale downloading or sharing of copyrighted material could result in severe fines and criminal penalties. Law enforcement could even seize your computer and send you to jail for minor copyright infringement.

4. The TPP could prohibit blind and deaf users from breaking digital locks to access their content

Under the TPP, attempts to circumvent digital locks in order to use your paid-for and legally-acquired media may become illegal. If you are blind, this means you could be criminalized for circumventing digital locks on your purchased e-books and other digital materials in order to convert text to braille, audio, or other accessible formats. If you are a librarian, it may become very difficult to share excerpts of content with students for education purposes, lend out material to the public, or even gain full access to purchased content; and as a consumer of digital media, attempts to make backup copies of that DVD you purchased or transfer your legally-purchased e-book on a different device would become unlawful.

3. The TPP could lead to excessive copyright terms

Copyright, which was originally intended to promote the creation of new works by giving authors certain exclusive rights for a limited time, may be threatened by excessive terms and a rigid system that could stifle creativity and innovation under the TPP.

Under the TPP, excessive copyright terms could be created beyond internationally-agreed upon periods; it could also lengthen terms for corporate-owned works. Despite the strong and growing body of evidence demonstrating the importance of a rich commons in creating new works, such a rigid copyright regime would stifle creativity and innovation. It would also restrict the limitations and exceptions that member countries could enact, ensuring that countries enact compliant laws in order to avoid trade sanctions.

2. The TPP may regulate temporary copies at the cost of innovation and freedom

Temporary copies, or the small copies that your computer needs to make in order to move data around, are being targeted by TPP lobbyists who are attempting to redefine the very meaning of the word “copy”. The very notion of regulating temporary copies is ludicrous given how basic the creation of temporary copies of files and programs is to computer functioning and the Internet. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes:

This proposal may seem absurd to you. It should. Given how crucial the storage of “temporary copies” of digital files is to the functioning of our devices, the inclusion of unfettered provisions to regulate it is purely backward, especially given the supporters’ failure to justify a legitimate purpose for imposing a burden without a balance.

If lobbyists have their way, anyone viewing content on any device could potentially be committing copyright infringement. Companies like Wikipedia and Connexions would face serious difficulty in hosting and storing user-generated content. Ultimately, this provision could make it more expensive for you to access licensed content, make you more vulnerable to liability, require you to purchase licenses from copyright-holders for transactions, and hinder your ability to use and create online content.

1.  The TPP could kick you off the Internet

The TPP will place the burden of monitoring copyright infringement on your Internet Service Provider (ISP), potentially resulting in the blocking of entire websites. Your ISP would have to institute what’s called a “three-strike rule” -- a rule that would kick you and your whole family off the internet after three infringement accusations by copyright holders.

It would also force websites to police user-contributed material.. Not only would this mean added financial burden, which could lead to the stifling of technology startups, it would also result in websites having to actively monitor for banned links -- forcing the creation of a stringent Internet censorship regime. If ISPs are incentivized to remove content because of the resource-heavy nature of investigating copyright infringement complaints, such immediate takedown could censor time-sensitive news, including information to facilitate social organization, protest, and community-building.

It would also break your right to privacy by forcing your ISP to share your private sensitive information with law enforcement in order to investigate your alleged copyright crimes.

Here’s the bottom line: The TPP is a secretive and extreme agreement that could break our digital future. It could change how we behave online, threaten our freedom of expression by promoting an extreme Internet censorship plan, and invade our privacy. The TPP will stifle creativity and innovation, hinder our ability to access information and organize, and criminalize our Internet use. The TPP is an affront to global Internet freedom.

Over 100,000 people have said no to the TPP’s extreme Internet censorship plan and several thousand have put forward their vision of a fair digital future. Join them and make your voice heard -- the time is now.

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