It's awfully hard to have a conversation about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as the government representatives who are negotiate it are barred, by definition, from sharing details with the public.
It's a companion piece to the most recent draft of the TPP's Intellectual Property chapter, the August version of which was released by WikiLeaks Nov. 13. The IP chapter is highly controversial, in part for the aforementioned secrecy. But, as Internet advocates feared, it also shows that negotiators are arguing for tough Internet copyright standards. Those could make it much easier for corporations to remove content from the Internet, effectively locking participating countries into de facto laws.
"It is likely that the coming days will be full of hyperbolic misinformation about what is in that text," the document says. "Indeed, it is likely that whoever leaked the text specifically desired this outcome as a way to set back the IP chapter and the TPP negotiations more generally."
Its first point is that the leaked draft is already outdated, and thus isn't a good point to reference. However, it is worth noting that it reflects similar positions to a draft of that chapter leaked in 2011, and that negotiators hope to have the TPP finalized by the end of 2013, so it may be a leap to expect the final version to be substantially different.
The document also calls for "a really simple 'BS meter'—does that happen under U.S. law?", noting that the USTR hasn't recently accepted any trade agreements that would require changes to U.S. copyright law. "Claims likely to be made by the anti-TPP voices," it said, would require "a change to U.S. intellectual property law."
But that's not quite what the anti-TPP voices are saying.
Maira Sutton, Global Policy Analyst for the EFF—one of the leading Internet advocacy groups against the TPP—said in a recent interview with the Daily Dot that the U.S.'s stance in the TPP could make other countries adopt the U.S.'s copyright stances. Moreover, she said, the U.S.'s main online copyright law, 1998's Digital Millenium Copyright Act, is already problematic and outdated and needs reform. If the TPP passes as written, she said, it could make it substantially harder to reform the DMCA.
"The only real 'news' in the leaked text is that various claims (e.g., TPP endangers Internet freedom, TPP is SOPA) are provably false," the document claims.
In the months preceding the leak, the U.S. Trade Representative did not respond to the Daily Dot's multiple requests for comment about its positions on the IP chapter and how it would affect the Internet.
Illustration by Jason Reed