The internet community may have scored a big victory when SOPA and PIPA were shot down, but with online piracy continuing to be a major issue, most observers knew it would only be a matter of time before creative freedoms in the digital channel were threatened once again. According to a few digital freedom fighters, that time has come, and from the looks of it, the new threat could be worse than the two failed proposals recently put on the shelf.
The latest proposal lawmakers have on the table is currently being hyped as something that makes SOPA and PIPA look like harmless child’s play. Short for Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, TPP is a multinational free trade agreement created by the United States and eight other nations. Those countries include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The goal of the treaty is to increase the liberalization of economies in the Asia-Pacific regions, but there is a component that involves the internet.
According to what is known about the free trade initiative, TPP would introduce rules and regulations that force all participating nations to comply. Included in the proposed policies are said to be provisions that affect both copyrights and IP rights. TPP has already produced quite a few critics, including the Electric Frontier Foundation, which said that it will change how IP rules are enforced on a global scale. Hacktivist group Anonymous also spoke out, saying it would serve as a bigger blow to internet free speech than both SOPA and PIPA.
Up to this point, Sean Flynn, a faculty member at American University’s Information Justice and Intellectual Property program, has been one of the most vocal in speaking out against TPP. In a recent interview with WebProNews, Flynn revealed that the scariest thing about the global treaty is its secrecy. He said the reason everything is being done behind doors is to prevent the criticisms of American citizens and businesses from making things harder at the negotiation table. When asked what made TPP worse than the proposals to come before it, Flynn painted a picture of another one-sided ruling that could leave free speech on the internet at a disadvantage.
Anti-TPP Meeting Disabled
The TPP negotiations are not being as covertly operated as you might assume after reading the Sean Flynn interview. Look hard enough, and you will see that there is a good amount of information about it online. With that said, there appears to be an element that hints the government does indeed want the public to keep out.
A network of civilian-based public interest groups, headed up by Flynn, were planning to meet at a hotel in West Hollywood to discuss the issue. Unfortunately for them, the meeting was arranged in the same hotel where TPP negotiators had planned to meet. To make a long story short, Flynn and his circle were turned away, while the negotiators were allowed to stay. It is now speculated that their reservations were cancelled at the request of a U.S. Trade representative.
It is starting to look like TPP will be another controversial issue that has opponents saying lawmakers are trying to cripple free speech on the internet, and supporters saying that the critics just don’t understand. While President Obama would not get behind SOPA or PIPA, he is reportedly giving TPP his full support. Whether or not that has any bearing on the outcome remains to be seen, but the developments of this story will be interesting, for sure.