While Battle against ACTA Rages, next Clash against TPP Looms on the Horizon
In light of the extensive protests of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which took place Saturday, June 9 all across Europe, Australia, and the U.S., concerns about similarities between ACTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have been surfacing. ACTA was signed by the U.S., Australia, Japan, Canada, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea in October 2011, quickly followed by the European Union (EU) and 22 of its member states in January 2012. Nevertheless, it faced almost immediate push-back from citizens of the EU, most notably in Poland, where crowds came out to protest ACTA in large numbers and members of Parliament wore “Anonymous” masks into the legislative chambers. The public’s outcry showed results. Four committees of the European Parliament, which must ratify ACTA for it to be adopted as EU law, recently opposed the agreement. Resistance to ACTA springs largely from copyright provisions which legal experts and Internet freedom advocates fear would lead to censorship and breaches of privacy rights. A similar treaty, the TPP Agreement, is currently being negotiated in secret by nine Asia-Pacific countries: Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Peru, the U.S., and Vietnam.
The parallels between the TPPA and ACTA are uncanny. They contain similarly harsh provisions pertaining to intellectual property rights as well as an appalling lack of transparency in the negotiations of the agreements. Many tracking the TPP say its opacity makes the ACTA process look like a pinnacle of open government in comparison. One common theme running through the accords is the United States’ insistence on stringent IP rules, largely at the behest of the entertainment, content, and pharmaceutical industries. Working through lobbying groups like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), these corporations work to secure draconian IP rules by influencing trade agreements such as the TPP. Other lobbying groups influencing the negotiations are PhRMA and BIO, representing the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries respectively. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is the governmental body responsible for representing the U.S.’s interests in trade discussions. But USTR has been acting as a mouthpiece for these industries throughout the course of the TPP negotiations, advancing the interests of the 1% and ignoring the pleas of the 99%.
The European Parliament scheduled a vote on ACTA for July 3. With the upcoming 13th round of negotiations on the TPPA between member-countries to be held on July 2 – 10 in San Diego, California, there is urgent need to act to protect internet freedom and privacy and access to affordable medicines globally. While ACTA represents a blatant infringement of privacy rights and excessive IP provisions, USTR’s proposals to the TPP go even further. For example, the US-proposed IP chapter aims to lengthen, strengthen, and broaden IP monopolies, and in some areas is more heavy-handed than ACTA. The parallels between these two agreements have not gone unnoticed, and activists are using momentum against ACTA to fight TPP. The grassroots activist group “Internet Freedom Movement” recently began this page opposing the TPP, the website “killacta.org” encourages visitors to write to their legislators to oppose both agreements, and the advocacy group Citizens Trade Campaign has a similar project.
Time is running out to oppose the stringent IP rules and Internet privacy infringement embedded in ACTA. But even if ACTA is vetoed in Europe, the TPP still lurks out there, threatening our due process rights, privacy, and rights on the internet. And while the future of TPP is unclear at this point, one thing is certain: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over…”