Ask the Expert: Could TPP Make Me an Internet Criminal?

internet criminal

Q: “I’ve recently heard about something called TPP that apparently criminalizes content sharing on the web. This worries me, because I share things all the time! Could you tell me more about what TPP is and what it might do? Would it make me a criminal?”

A: TPP, which stands for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is a trade agreement currently being discussed by 10 nations that would create highly restrictive intellectual property laws around the world.

This trade agreement raises serious concerns regarding due process, privacy laws, and freedom of expression. If it is ratified, it will completely rewrite intellectual property laws.

TPP would completely change how information is shared on the Internet. It would force ISPs to police our online activity, and give media companies the power to shut down websites and remove content at will.

Sounds pretty scary, huh? Read on to find out more.

What’s in TPP

TPP is currently being negotiated by the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and as of last week, Canada. The trade agreement covers many things (including tariffs, labor standards, and telecommunication issues), but the only section currently known to the public is the intellectual property section.

This section contains the following measures:

  • It would treat temporary reproductions of copyrighted works without proper authorization as copyright infringement.
  • It would create copyright terms well beyond the internationally agreed period in the 1994 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IP.
  • It would adopt criminal sanctions for copyright infringement that is done without any commercial motivation (such as posting a picture of Mickey Mouse on your Facebook page).

TPP critics think that these provisions could turn into weapons for censoring web activity. They believe that this agreement puts intellectual property governance into the hands of lobbyists and big business and that websites could be taken down without any due process.

Closed Doors and Zero Transparency

Despite the far-reaching implications of this agreement, all TPP negotiations have taken place behind closed doors, far away from the public eye, and outside of the normal checks and balances.

Last year, civil rights groups demanded an end to this secrecy and sent letters addressed to government representatives in each country. TPP representatives apparently held discussions on whether they should grant greater public disclosure, but took no action.

No information has been released to the public, except for a leaked draft of the U.S. proposal regarding intellectual property. The TPP needs transparency and public input, but so far it has none. Only large companies have been allowed to view and influence the U.S.’s negotiating positions.

Why You Should Care

It’s impossible to know exactly what TPP would do, but the little we do know is pretty scary.

TPP could make downloading music a crime. Law enforcement could seize your computer and send you to jail if you illegally download a single song. The TPP’s criminal rules go far beyond current U.S. law.

TPP could even kick you off the Internet. It would encourage ISPs to adopt a “three strikes” measure, in which you would be kicked off your Internet connection after three infringement accusations, and allows the ISP to inspect your Internet data to see if you are sending or receiving copyrighted information.

What You Can Do

If this sounds outrageous to you, contact your local and national elected representatives to let them know that the little bit we do know about TPP (and the secrecy around the negotiations) is not only unjust, but unacceptable.


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Kent Lawson

Kent Lawson is the CEO & Chairman of Private Communications Corporation and creator of its flagship software PRIVATE WiFi. He combined his extensive business and technical experience to develop PRIVATE WiFi in 2010. The software is an easy-to-use Virtual Private Network (VPN) that protects your sensitive personal information whenever you’re connected to a public WiFi network. Follow Kent on Twitter: @KentLawson.

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