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Gillmor writes: "Among the many betrayals of the Obama administration is its overall treatment of what many people refer to as 'intellectual property' - the idea that ideas themselves and digital goods and services are exactly like physical property, and that therefore the law should treat them the same way."

A protester demonstrates against the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) in New York. It might be time to do the same against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)
A protester demonstrates against the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) in New York. It might be time to do the same against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)


Thanks to Wikileaks, We See Just How Bad TPP Trade Deal Is for Regular People

By Dan Gillmor, Guardian UK

14 November 13

 

The more you know about the odious Trans-Pacific Partnership, the less you'll like it. It's made for corporate intellectual property and profits.

mong the many betrayals of the Obama administration is its overall treatment of what many people refer to as "intellectual property" - the idea that ideas themselves and digital goods and services are exactly like physical property, and that therefore the law should treat them the same way. This corporatist stance defies both reality and the American Constitution, which expressly called for creators to have rights for limited periods, the goal of which was to promote inventive progress and the arts.

In the years 2007 and 2008, candidate Obama indicated that he'd take a more nuanced view than the absolutist one from Hollywood and other interests that work relentlessly for total control over this increasingly vital part of our economy and lives. But no clearer demonstration of the real White House view is offered than a just-leaked draft of an international treaty that would, as many had feared, create draconian new rights for corporate "owners" and mean vastly fewer rights for the rest of us.

I'm talking about the appalling Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, a partial draft of which WikiLeaks has just released. This treaty has been negotiated in secret meetings dominated by governments and corporations. You and I have been systematically excluded, and once you learn what they're doing, you can see why.

The outsiders who understand TPP best aren't surprised. That is, the draft "confirms fears that the negotiating parties are prepared to expand the reach of intellectual property rights, and shrink consumer rights and safeguards," writes James Love a longtime watcher of this process.

Needless to say, copyright is a key part of this draft. And the negotiators would further stiffen copyright holders' control while upping the ante on civil and criminal penalties for infringers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says TPP has "extensive negative ramifications for users' freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and hinder peoples' abilities to innovate". It's Hollywood's wish list.

Canadian intellectual property expert Michael Geist examined the latest draft of the intellectual property chapter. He writes that the document, which includes various nations' proposals, shows the US government, in particular, taking a vastly different stance than the other nations. Geist notes:

[Other nations have argued for] balance, promotion of the public domain, protection of public health, and measures to ensure that IP rights themselves do not become barriers to trade. The opposition to these objective[s] by the US and Japan (Australia has not taken a position) speaks volumes about their goals for the TPP.

The medical industry has a stake in the outcome, too, with credible critics saying it would raise drug prices and, according to Love's analysis, give surgeons patent protection for their procedures.

Congress has shown little appetite for restraining the overweening power of the corporate interests promoting this expansion. With few exceptions, lawmakers have repeatedly given copyright, patent and trademark interests more control over the years. So we shouldn't be too optimistic about the mini-flurry of Capitol Hill opposition to the treaty that emerged this week. It's based much more on Congress protecting its prerogatives - worries about the treaty's so-called "fast track" authorities, giving the president power to act without congressional approval - than on substantive objections to the document's contents.

That said, some members of Congress have become more aware of the deeper issues. The public revolt against the repugnant "Stop Online Piracy Act" two years ago was a taste of what happens when people become more widely aware of what they can lose when governments and corporate interests collude.

If they become aware - that's the key. One of TPP's most abhorrent elements has been the secrecy under which it's been negotiated. The Obama administration's fondness for secret laws, policies and methods has a lot to do with a basic reality: the public would say no to much of which is done in our names and with our money if we knew what was going on. As Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out, in a letter to the White House:

I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the administration's policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States. I believe in transparency and democracy and I think the US Trade Representative should too.

Thanks to WikiLeaks, we have at least partial transparency today. The more you know about the odious TPP, the less you'll like it - and that's why the administration and its corporate allies don't want you to know.


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+7 # tedrey 2013-11-14 11:27
An honest negotiation would have given the citizens some idea over the last three years as to what was being discussed, in general if not in detail. The inclusion of 600 business lobbyists would have been balanced by other interests. People could have discussed it and made their opinions known. Political parties could have taken a stand; heavens, there has even been a national election in which candidates' opinions on these questions could have been presented to the voters. Our courts could have been asked whether they were willing to be superceded by courts run by transnational businesses. The administration, as well as foreign negotiators, could have been alerted to what Americans wanted or definitely would not support, and modified the agreement accordingly.

As it actually is, month from the planned "shock-and-awe" passage, we still wouldn't know about it if not for Wikileaks.

The secrecy by which all these desirable and democratic processes were made impossible makes it clear that the secrecy, as well as the planned fast-track up-or-down passage is due to one thing only; we wouldn't like the agreement, and would stop it if we could.

Left or right, we should all agree that this absolutely abominable and undemocratic process must be rejected; if passed it should be ignored; if attempts are made to carry it out, recalls and impeachments must follow.

IMHO.
 
 
+8 # Gnome de Pluehm 2013-11-14 11:36
We would have to go back to the French baroque to see where this leads. Jean-Baptiste Lully had a patent on all opera in France. He alone could write and produce operas, and all others had to have his permission to produce any opera in all of France.
 
 
0 # RLF 2013-11-15 06:54
Is this why most of the operas from there forward are Italian and German?
 
 
+4 # Texas Aggie 2013-11-14 14:50
"give surgeons patent protection for their procedures."

Great! That means that baseball players can have patent protection for their bat swings. And Dr. J can get a cut every time someone dunks a ball. And John Stockton and Karl Malone get a few bucks every time someone works a pick and roll. And Sam Snead gets a few bucks every time someone pulls an iron out of their golf bag. And think how well off Pancho Gonzales and his heirs will be every time someone serves a tennis ball.

But seriously, this business of trying to make a few bucks off of every little thing is going to stop progress dead in its tracks. An example is a couple of jerks who patented growing quinoa and tried to make every Andean farmer pay them a royalty. And the US patent office accepted their patent!!! Then there are the trolls who buy up a bunch of worthless patents and then try to strongarm legitimate businesses into paying them off to avoid patent infringement suits.
 
 
+3 # Capn Canard 2013-11-14 15:32
Texas Aggie, that is why I favor most democratic Anarchist ideologies over the masturbatory ideas of capitalism, as it now stands.
 
 
0 # RLF 2013-11-15 06:58
i agree that that sounds crazy but I know enough musicians who can't make money off there recordings because today's youth thinks they should get it for free...the only way they make money is touring which creates nothing new and is exhausting. The only ones that can make money are the plutocraps of the music world...the corporate junk...so where is the middle here? Not crazy but gets people paid (at least for a while) for their innovations?
 
 
+8 # DPM 2013-11-14 15:16
Speak out! Tell EVERYONE you know about the TPP! Stop it from happening or "fire" those that allowed it and have it repealed. Stand up for our rights. Our dignity!
 
 
+1 # Nominae 2013-11-14 23:19
Quoting DPM:
Speak out! Tell EVERYONE you know about the TPP! Stop it from happening or "fire" those that allowed it and have it repealed. Stand up for our rights. Our dignity!


The public in Japan is certainly doing *their* part to protest this abomination. Their people are, and have been, hitting the streets with some regularity.

The TPP violates the rights of citizens *all over* the Globe, from Member Nations (U.S., Japan, Australia, etc.) to non member Nations such as China.

This insane policy is like playing with matches in a room that is ankle-deep in gasoline.
 
 
+2 # RMDC 2013-11-15 06:52
It is just so transparently clear that corporations own governments. They use governments to bludgeon people into giving up their money. Why don't they just create a new bill called the TGSA -- transglobal slavery act. Then will will all work for corporations with no pay and no life.

Governments at the behest of corporations now monitor everything we say, read, do, talk about, buy. Soon they will make sure that we pay a royalty to corporations for every thought we have an ever word we speak.

The TPP is just absurd.
 

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