Trade agreement says ISPs should be ‘encouraged’ to become internet policemen

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was initiated by the Bush administration in 2008 and has continued under President Obama. It is described by its supporters as a ‘free trade agreement’; but the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sees it as something more sinister.

“First,” says the EFF, “its intellectual property (IP) chapter would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedoms and innovation, and second, the entire process has shut out multi-stakeholder participation and is shrouded in secrecy.” In both of these areas it is similar to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that was overwhelmingly rejected by the European Parliament (by 478 to 39) in July.

EFF has been examining the leaked TPP chapter that deals with intellectual property, which it believes goes beyond ACTA and contravenes the spirit of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In particular, it fears that TPP paves the way for three-strikes policies and laws, internet filtering of all communications, ISP obligations to block websites on the basis of rightsholder allegations, and the forced disclosure of user information again based just on allegations.

TPP goes so far as to require “penalties that include sentences of imprisonment as well as monetary fines sufficiently high to provide a deterrent to future infringements,” and to demand “legal incentives for service providers to cooperate with copyright owners.” But, “We are fighting back,” says the EFF. “Activists, scholars, and individuals around the world are speaking out against the TPP’s onerous intellectual property chapter and the threat it poses to our digital freedoms.”

EFF’s concern is that basic human rights are at stake, and it believes that the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the European Court of Justice both agree. “To allow people to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive and impart information, it is critical to have a policy infrastructure that does not impose liability on Internet intermediaries. By forcing intermediaries to become much more than service providers, many of these proposals attempt to make Internet intermediaries the sole arbiter and enforcer of the law instead of courts and judges.”

Now EFF has issued a ‘call to arms’ against what it perceives to be a major threat to both privacy and freedom of expression on the internet. “We’ve beaten back SOPA, PIPA and ACTA. We can do the same to the TPP,” it says.

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