Recently we shared an infographic that helped to show the details of the TPP's Internet trap. Now, we're providing a bit more explanation and context as to what dangers the TPP poses to our Internet use.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership retains many of the same copyright restrictions and that were within ACTA, another treaty that sought to overwrite the Internet use of global citizens. Although the two treaties have many similarities, the most notable difference is ACTA's defeat in the face of public pressure.
The draft chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement on Intellectual Property—as of its current leaked version [PDF], article 16—insists that signatories provide legal incentives for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to privately enforce copyright protection rules. The TPP wants service providers to undertake the financial and administrative burdens of becoming copyright cops, serving a copyright maximalist agenda while disregarding the consequences for Internet freedom and innovation.
TPP article 16.3 mandates a system of ISP liability that goes beyond the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) standards and US case law. In sum, the TPP pushes a framework beyond ACTA and possibly the spirit of the DMCA, since it opens the doors for:
- Three-strikes policies and laws that require Internet intermediaries to terminate their users’ Internet access on repeat allegations of copyright infringement
- Requirements for Internet intermediaries to filter all Internet communications for potentially copyright-infringing material
- ISP obligations to block access to websites that allegedly infringe or facilitate copyright infringement
- Efforts to force intermediaries to disclose the identities of their customers to IP rightsholders on an allegation of copyright infringement.
The TPP Puts Your Rights at Risk
Service providers are the conduits of free expression. By enabling free or low-cost platforms that enable anyone to reach an audience of millions, ISPs have democratized media and enabled innovative ideas to spread quickly—without the gatekeepers of traditional media.
Private ISP enforcement of copyright poses a serious threat to free speech on the Internet, because it makes offering open platforms for user-generated content economically untenable. For example, on an ad-supported site, the costs of reviewing each post will generally exceed the pennies of revenue one might get from ads. Even obvious fair uses could become too risky to host, leading to an Internet with only cautious and conservative content.
Moreover, the TPP insists upon notice and takedown regimes at the price of a free and open Internet. Expression is often time-sensitive: reacting to recent news or promoting a candidate for election. Online takedown requirements open the door to abuse, allowing the claim of copyright to trump the judicial system, and get immediate removal, before the merits are assessed. Put back procedures can mitigate the harm, but even a few days of downtime can strike a serious blow to freedom of expression.
A Sinister Side-Letter to Require Strict Takedown Procedures
If the copyright maximalists have their way, the TPP will include a “side-letter,” an agreement annexed to the TPP to bind the countries to strict procedures enabling copyright owners to insist material are removed from the Internet. This strict notice-and-takedown regime is not new—in 2004, Chile rejected the same proposal in its bilateral trade agreement with the United States. Without the shackles of the proposed requirements, Chile then implemented a much more balanced takedown procedure in its 2010 Copyright Law, which provides greater protection to Internet users’ expression and privacy than the DMCA’s copyright safe harbor regime.
Instead of ensuring due process and judicial involvement in takedowns, the TPP proposal encourages the spread of models that have been proven inefficient and have chilling unintended consequences, such as the US DMCA or the HADOPI Law in France.
These strict rules are not only bad public policy, but have the potential to impinge on national sovereignty by imposing, through a non-transparent process, significant changes in existing national law, such as the Chile judicial takedown system or the Canadian system where ISPs provide a conduit for notices, but not extra-judicial takedowns. Where a country has implemented a system more balanced than the DMCA, the TPP should not overrule popular legislative process or bring a one-size fits all approach for substantive and procedural rules. Read more»