Tag Archives: Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership

After Marathon Negotiations, TPP Agreement is a Reality

If it seems like you’ve been hearing TPP this and Asia trade deal that every few months for years now, you wouldn’t be wrong.

A summit with leaders of the member states of ...

A summit with leaders of the member states of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) — (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations have been ongoing for some five years now, but the agreement was confirmed by all 12 participants today, marking the largest trade deal ever signed. It now awaits ratification by governments in each country, which include Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Taken together, the countries involved make up forty percent of global trade and a combined population of some 800 million people.

Viewed through those numbers – and understanding that the agreement covers everything from the agriculture and automotive sectors to pharmaceuticals and entertainment. The last two in particular have perhaps unexpectedly overlapping interests, with intellectual property rights at the forefront of negotiations for drug patents and movie copyright.

With such a vast marketplace in play and the potential to synchronize creative rights across some key countries, it’s no surprise that the agreement’s announcement is welcome news for North America’s creative sector.

Echoing the sentiments of movie makers around the country, MPAA Chairman and CEO, Senator Chris Dodd, had this to say about the agreement:

“Enacting a high-standard TPP is an economic priority for the American motion picture and television industry, which registered nearly $16 billion in exports in 2013 and supports nearly two million jobs throughout all fifty states. We look forward to reviewing the agreement’s final text.”

The proposed agreement creates a robust environment in which to ensure creativity is protected, and brings profits only to those who work hard to bring us the kind of movies and television productions that we enjoy every day. It sets a firm foundation for creators to sell and distribute their work, with less worry that international infringement will prevent them from taking the proceeds and channeling them into new productions.

Unsurprisingly, longstanding opponents of this landmark trade agreement are once again trotting out their familiar mix of hyperbole and confused hysteria. The myths are as many as those who believe the negotiating behind closed doors marks the TPP out as some kind of clandestine discussion, when in reality the final version will now face public and political scrutiny in every country that it will effect.

This is to say nothing of the many distributed earlier version that have already made the rounds after previous meetings between the participating nations, which have served to make the agreement a comprehensively reviewed document, even before it was anywhere near a reality.

As every media outlet explains, the TPP provisions will now face the full review that each respective member’s democratic process allows for. The negotiations were behind closed doors because they were just that, negotiations. If sufficient opposition exists in any participating nation, the agreement will not be ratified and will be forced to reconsider any sticking points.

If not, and if every government successfully explains to its citizens just how valuable the deal will be to their economic prosperity and protection of intellectual property, we will all witness an historic trade agreement that stands to secure and boost economies around the Pacific Rim for years to come.

The Sky Is Falling, At Least in the EFF’s Digital World

“What color is the sky in your world?” 

A polite and gently humorous way to tell another party that their reality may be a little different to the one the rest of us are experiencing. Unfortunately it’s Chicken Little, if you’re the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and you inhabit a digital world in which the sky is constantly falling.

 

Nowhere is that more evident than this week, as the organization that charges itself with “Defending Your Rights In the Digital World” channels the righteous efforts of its legal team towards supporting Movietube, a site that excels in ripping off the digital rights of creators.

The concept is simple, until you choose to complicate and obfuscate in the manner that the EFF has down to a fine art.

Movietube and the  sites that it associates with its service are operated to serve up stolen content, unpaid and unlicensed from its original creators. That content gives the site a selling point to attract its traffic, on the basis of which it sells advertising, subscriptions, or both. Less some minor hosting and maintenance costs, the gap between what the site should have paid for that content and what it can bring by providing it for free is pure profit. Profit that the creative talent behind said content can never see, of course, because Movietube and its ilk are ripping them off without compunction or a care for the law.

The latter is important, because these sites operate outside of national law, in the digital world that the EFF is so staunchly defending. This is a world in which the creator has no rights or respect, and serves simply to make the content that others can profit from. To confirm this, look no further than the site’s policy on content licensing:

“Luckily we are not a US company, so we do not need to respect US laws.” -Movietube

By running their sites from countries without the motivation or means to pursue them, the current legal framework makes it extremely difficult to protect intellectual property across some international borders. Productions that might cost hundreds of millions of dollars and countless creative hours to make are immediately released for free public viewing in this reality, which begs the question: how are creators supposed to live in this world the EFF is trying to mould?

 

 

But while it conveniently ignores the legal transgressions of piracy sites in favor of spouting its latest Doomsday scenario, the EFF simultaneously exaggerates the legal action being sought by rightsholders in their suit against Movietube.

Far from seeking “one court order to bind… the entire Internet,” as the rather Tolkien-esque language employed in a blog by EFF lawyer Mitch Stoltz proclaims, studios are in fact seeking injunctions based on infringement complaints that are well established in copyright case law.

Moreover, these actions are pursued in federal courts that fully respect our founding legal principle of due process. Action is only taken against defendants if and when an independent court determines that the legal rights of US creators have been violated, and only binds third parties that have direct ties with the infringing party, by actively aiding that copyright infringement.

With these details presented, the only recourse for those with a pathological fear of any legal action involving Internet content restriction is to muddy the waters. By painting the issue with broad strokes Doomsday scenarios and infusing the discussion with the fear-mongering so characteristic of technology lobbying.

The sky is falling…. again.

Which brings us back to SOPA; such a frequently used crutch of the technology lobby that its original context matters not a jot, so long as it supports that aforementioned skyline from falling to whatever is chosen as this week’s extinction level event.

The EFF and its well-positioned cronies around the tech sector keep returning to SOPA for one reason: it’s the perfect rabble-rouser. SOPA is to tech populism as Obamacare is to the political far-right in the US, a cultural shorthand guaranteed to raise the ire of your rank and file, regardless of how it is twisted or inaccurately applied as a comparison.

As effective as this tactic is, it tends to be rolled out whenever the underlying argument against the actual issue is inherently weak. After examining the content of Movietube’s character, and the exaggerated rhetoric of the EFF’s argument against penalizing it, we’ll leave you to decide which world is the better one for creators to live in.

 

U.S. Creators Will Benefit From Strong International Copyright Agreements

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and associated trade agreements took a step closer to becoming a reality last week, as a bill was introduced to the U.S. Senate that establishes negotiating objectives for the President.

As previously reported, talks between national representatives have been ongoing for some time, as negotiators lay the foundations for one of the most significant trade pacts of our time, covering everything from regulatory and currency practices to intellectual property rights.

It is the latter, of course, that much of our coverage has focused on, and which also has been an important talking point across media reports concerning the TPP.

A statement from Copyright Alliance CEO Sandra Aistars underlines this importance, expressing support for the approach adopted by senators in this legislation. Aistars explains:

“To meaningfully take advantage of the expanding opportunities presented by both technology and trade, creators rely on strong enforcement of copyright protections consistent with U.S. law.”

 

English: A North American Free Trade Agreement...

English: A North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the wider sense, expansive trade agreements have long held benefits for U.S. business, despite attempts to derail them at the time of negotiation.

1994’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for example, was criticized for its potential to see trade value leak from the country and cause an expected decline in key industries. Today it is credited with boosting the trade of U.S. goods and services with Mexico and Canada considerably, rising from $337 billion in 1993 to $1.2 trillion in 2011.
Despite opposition attempts to portray the negotiations as cloak and dagger, the Transpacific talks have been conducted no differently than any other major trade deal; the talking points, which are evisently public, are set up to frame the talks, after which details are thrashed out in private, as it should be, until the participants have the basis for an agreement that they can take back and present to their national authorities.

In the U.S. that means any potential agreement passing through a rigorous and robust legislative process, which from recent experience we all know to be a stern test of bipartisan support. If any proposal that emerges can win such support from both sides of the aisle, it would seem fair to suggest that its potential to boost the American economy is suitably convincing. We elect our officials to do this job and should trust their judgment when it comes to international trade just as we must in almost every other legislative matter.

If these negotiations – and resulting agreements – can strengthen international copyright protections and boosts long term trade at the same time, U.S. creators will be all the better for it.

TPP Trade Negotiations Re-open in Australia

The latest round of talks to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership began in Canberra, Australia yesterday, bringing the twelve participating nations back together to discuss wide-ranging trade issues.

The negotiations will have a significant impact on how the major nations handle intellectual property rights, among other things, and an early leak of the copyright proposals has stoked online opinion, even before any clear consensus has been reached by participants.

Canberra Australia

Canberra Parliament | Image Credit: Brenden Ashton

 

The provisions include a standard copyright term, generally mooted as life of the creator plus somewhere between 50-100 years, measures to prevent getting around Digital Rights Management systems designed to prevent piracy, and a form of penalizing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for illegal access that occurs through the connections they run.

On the latter point participating nations are being particularly careful. Despite feeling that ISPs have a supporting role to play in enforcing intellectual property law, the tendency towards draconian measures such as long term disconnections and jail time has long since passed. The desire now, as indicated by Australia’s attempts to put cost limits in place and the wider desire for some form of intermediary “safe harbor,” is to bring ISPs more effectively into the fight for copyright protection. This is something that their business depends on, given how much content is consumed online and the increasing popularity of streaming music and movies.

As early drafts of the proposal confirm, the end game here is to create “remedies for rights holders to address copyright infringement in the online environment.” This has to be a good thing for creative rights, but it hasn’t been a smooth ride for the TPP so far.

Even with opposition to the way the negotiations are being held behind closed doors (not at all irregular for early draft international treaties) and the concern that any legislation will overreach (though individual nations will still be responsible for how they integrate any requirements into their own legal systems), the outcome of the TPP should accomplish a long overlooked goal: to help creators take control of their intellectual property rights beyond their own borders.