What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and why should Net Activists care?

by adrienne debigare

For those of us just tuning in (which is most of the public, excluding a select group of corporate insiders, and government officials) a new document outlining the details of the ultra-secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was just leaked via Wikileaks, and it could change the landscape of Intellectual Property as we know it.

“Just” is somewhat subjective though. The original treaty document for the TPP has been in the works since 2008, and was first leaked two years ago. When it was first leaked, the mainstream English-speaking news coverage was minimal and focused mainly in Australia. Aside from some niche economics publications and an interesting Q&A on the Washington Post, the English-speaking press passed it by.

This was a huge mistake, and now the talks are all but wrapped up. The 12 member governments have just convened to finalize language. The hope seems to be to enact policy by the year’s end. The countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Together, they form 40% of the global economy.

If the document leaked by Wikileaks becomes ratified, industry experts warn of a hardline stance on a variety of copyright and IP laws. Similar in scope and language to SOPA/PIPA, certain articles talk about “proposing criminal procedures and penalties ‘even absent willful trademark, counterfeiting or copyright or related rights piracy’”. There is also a stipulation that would internationally ban Aereo-type companies.

What’s perhaps most disturbing for Americans is the US government’s extreme stance on many of these policies. On a close read, it seems that the US is using this treaty to enact policy domestically that it could not pass through Congress. Additionally, this entire process is being done in complete secrecy, save a few members of Congress and “700 or so ‘cleared advisers,’ all of whom come from intellectual property rights holders’ industries.” It’s quite clear that the normal citizenry wasn’t invited.