Trade officials representing the twelve countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership have reached a final agreement. However, these negotiations were merely the first step in the process. Now the legislatures of the countries must debate the treaty and give their final approval in order for it to take effect. The TPP deal is being promoted for its free trade aspects, which supporters claim will be mutually beneficial for the countries involved. Although there are no doubt going to be debates over benefits of free trade versus protectionism, much of the criticism of the deal is aimed at other aspects.
Groups like the EFF have raised serious concerns about the intellectual property section of the deal. Earlier leaked drafts of the deal showed troubling clauses relating to copyright and trade secrets. Since the final deal is not available to the public, it is unknown how many of the troubling clauses still remain or whether they have been modified in any way. But based on the direction the deal was moving in multiple leaked versions, its likely some of them will still remain.
Among the leaked versions sections which caused most concern is the ban on DRM circumvention. This despite the fact that many countries have exceptions that allow DRM circumvention for certain lawful purposes. The deal in its earlier forms also forced the other signatories to accept America’s lifetime of author plus 70 years copyright term, which is an extension beyond the current world standard of lifetime plus 50 years. This extension is widely regarded as providing little incentive to artists to create new works, but merely benefits large media corporations who want to profit off of an IP for well over a century as an alternative to actually creating something new. Many other issues that have been raised with the deal can be found here.
Although the deal is not yet available, the Fast Track plan that was passed by Congress requires the President to make a copy available online within 30 days of announcing intent to sign, so we will all soon see what is in the deal. The EFF is already attempting to mobilize supporters to contact Congress in opposition to the deal, because they expect that the final deal will not differ significantly from the leaked drafts.
Do you think the final deal has changed significantly from the leaked drafts? Leave your comments below.