Over the last few weeks, a storm has been gathering around a treaty known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty, or TPP. Last week, Wikileaks published a draft version of the TPP that dates to this previous August, and the restrictions it places on digital freedoms and consumer rights are incredible. If you thought that the content creation industry had learned something from the failure of SOPA in the US or the international ACTA treaty, you were wrong. Or rather, you were right. What the content industry learned was that treaty negotiations needed to be kept even more secretive. Access to the TPP text is so tightly controlled, even members of Congress were kept in the dark.
The TPP is an agreement between the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The TPP is a huge treaty, with 29 chapters that deal with a variety of issues including economic tariffs, health care standards, product manufacturing guidelines, and access to medicines and medical training, to name a few. The section we’re focusing on in particular is the intellectual property (IP) chapter, because that’s where the US is hell-bent on enforcing a draconian standard that flies in the face of the Obama Administration’s own promises regarding consumer rights.
Specifically, the United States is backing treaty terms that would: increase copyright duration to life of the author + 95 years; further narrow the interpretation of what activities would qualify as copyright infringement; and implement stronger patent rights, longer patent terms, and to allow for software patents, despite widespread domestic calls to abolish them. Under the current text of the TPP, activities like cell phone unlocking or jailbreaking devices would be explicitly illegal.
The TPP uses a DMCA-style list of exceptions under which DRM can be bypassed without breaking the law. The problem is, that list of exceptions is explicitly based on the DMCA and does not allow for permanent changes — only temporary ones. The DMCA does not contain a law that allows for cell phone unlocking or jailbreaking, which means the TPP doesn’t, either. This is entirely inconsistent with the Obama Administration’s promise that it wants to allow consumers to unlock phones, or the new FCC Chairman’s orders to cell phone providers to allow unlocking voluntarily or face the consequences.
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