Beyond secrecy to public creation: Fair Deal Coalition's call to TPP negotiators


The Fair Deal Coalition has launched a new initiative that will give Internet users a platform to discuss what copyright should look like under the TPP. The Coalition’s ‘Your Digital Future’ tool invites stakeholders from all sectors – not just old media conglomerates – to discuss what kind of copyright law the TPP countries need in order to encourage creativity, participation, and innovation.

The Fair Deal Coalition will take this wide-ranging feedback and bring it directly to TPP decision-makers, ensuring that the voices of the broader Internet community are heard.

“Your Digital Future” is a crowdsourcing initiative, hosted at http://OpenMedia.org/DigitalFuture. This new tool will be used to gather input from citizens and businesses on what they think today’s copyright laws should be, and what they think their digital future should look like.

Society at large should have a say in the important laws that shape our use of the Internet, how we access information, and even conduct business. This initiative seeks to correct the stark imbalance in the TPP talks between the interests of old media conglomerates and the rest of society including citizens, Internet users, innovative businesses, and creators, giving the latter a voice in the discussion.

The announcement comes as TPP negotiators wrap up their latest round of closed-door meetings in Malaysia. Leaked documents [pdf] show that copyright terms in the TPP could actually render many basic online activities illegal, hinder innovation, and cost us money. The copyright demands in the TPP would never pass with the world watching, which is why the negotiations are secret.

What Fair Deal Coalition members have to say about Your Digital Future:

OpenMedia.org Executive Director Steve Anderson said today, “The TPP is being negotiated in secret. With the Your Digital Future tool we’re beginning to build a Trans-Pacific Partnership of our own – a diverse network of civil society, businesses, creators, innovators, consumers, technologists, and educators. We aim to model what a 21st century multi-stakeholder policy process should look like, in contrast to the near-total secrecy around the TPP talks.”

Francisco Vera Hott from ONG Derechos Digitales, Chile: “While there is a growing demand for transparency and inclusiveness in public policy making, the TPP Agreement is being discussed under a level of secrecy that doesn’t allow people to even know its contents, and much less be part of those discussions. We need new tools like this to get people involved in the debate by enabling them to join discussions where the public interest is at stake”.

Jeremy Malcolm from Consumers International: “It is frustrating both for us and the negotiators that even when we meet with them, we can’t have a real discussion. We spend a lot of time talking about problems with the leaked draft, but it’s two years old now. Who knows whether the problems with the current text are the same? We may be wasting our time here and not even realise it. The open process that we’re using for Your Digital Future couldn’t be more different.”

Maira Sutton from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “Hollywood and other content interests are using TPP to push forth an extreme copyright agenda around the world. The IP policies they're lobbying for in TPP will permanently affect our rights to free expression, privacy, and innovation online. For this TPP to ever be relevant or legitimate throughout the 21st century, the public's voice must be heard and our collective concerns must be addressed.”

Trish Hepworth from the Australian Digital Alliance remarks “The Internet has profoundly changed the way we create, access, and disseminate culture, and we need to have an open discussion about how copyright law can support creation and access to culture in the digital era.  This is what this project aims to do – collecting voices from diverse sectors and countries and creating a productive conversation.  It stands in stark contrast to the TPP which seeks to impose an IP regime that is negotiated in secret as part of a trade deal.”

Burcu Kilic from Public Citizen: “ There seems to be a lack of communication between the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the United States Copyright office.  The Copyright office is concerned over the current state of aged copyright laws and is calling for sweeping reform, yet the USTR is insisting on implementing these inadequate regulations on a global scale through the TPP.  The leaked TPP text shows that the USTR is mandating that TPP signatory countries implement copyright provisions that the U.S. Copyright Office realizes are not adequate to the new developments in technology.  This must be taken as an implied message to TPP contracting parties that these copyright provisions are controversial for everyone involved, including the U.S. itself.”

Susan Chalmers from Internet New Zealand: “Ironically, if the TPP copyright chapter was open for public discussion, countries would probably end up with better legal standards for their citizens — ones that support innovation and economic growth, access to information, and make less of an intrusion into how we use and build the Internet. The idea behind Your Digital Future is to have that public discussion, whether invited or not. Now, TPP decision-makers will know how their constituents feel.”

The Fair Deal Coalition is made up of a diverse group of public interest and business organizations across the Pacific region along with thousands of people who are concerned about costly and harmful Internet censorship rules being imposed through the TPP.

About the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement:

The TPP is one of the most far-reaching international free trade agreements in history. We know from leaked TPP draft texts that participating nations would be bound to much stricter and more extreme copyright laws than now exist under current national laws. These new rules would criminalize much online activity, invade citizens’ privacy, and significantly impact our ability to share and collaborate online.

Negotiators from 12 of the TPP negotiating nations—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Peru, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States—met in Malaysia to discuss these changes without input from the public, creators, or most businesses. The negotiating documents are classified—unless you are one of just 600 industry lobbyists permitted to participate.

TPP meetings took place in Malaysia from July 15th to the 24th. Negotiators have indicated that they are in the “home stretch”, with leaders of the participating countries expecting a resolution sometime in October. However, reports have indicated that the intellectual property provisions have been quite a “challenging” issue for those behind the agreement.

Over 15,000 people have now signed a petition at http://OurFairDeal.org, which demands that negotiators reject copyright proposals that would restrict the open Internet, access to knowledge, economic opportunity and our fundamental rights.

Internet users around the world can tell decision-makers that it’s time to open up their secretive process and let our voices be heard by speaking out at www.OpenMedia.org/DigitalFuture.