Some prominent tech companies have registered their opposition to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that would govern trade in the Asia-Pacific region.
The agreement would involve Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. It would have potentially enormous impact on the U.S. economy – with The Washington Post reporting it would govern 40 percent of U.S. imports and exports, and would eliminate tariffs and change current regulations. It targets such wide areas as intellectual property, copyright, health, pharma and the creative arts. For instance, the U.S. movie industry wants to see stronger intellectual property laws in the TPP.
But, concerned about issues relating to copyrights, patents and privacy, 29 tech firms recently wrote to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to oppose giving the Obama administration fast-tracking authority over the trade proposal.
They are concerned that “secretive trade deals” hurt innovation and the current freedom found with the Internet. The companies also want to see more transparency and public input in negotiations that relate to Internet freedom, free speech and the tech business.
“These highly secretive, supranational agreements are reported to include provisions that vastly expand on any reasonable definition of ‘trade,’ including provisions that impact patents, copyright, and privacy in ways that constrain legitimate online activity and innovation,” the letter states. “Our industry, and the users that we serve, need to be at the table from the beginning to design policies that serve more than the narrow commercial interests of the few large corporations who have been invited to participate.”
Among the companies which signed the letter are: reddit, Automattic (WordPress.com), Imgur, DuckDuckGo, CREDO Mobile, BoingBoing, Thoughtworks, Namecheap and Cheezburger.
“We are particularly concerned about the U.S. Trade Representative's proposals around copyright enforcement,” the letter continues. “Dozens of digital rights organizations and tens of thousands of individuals have raised alarm over provisions that would bind treaty signatories to inflexible digital regulations that undermine free speech… Anticipated elements such as harsher criminal penalties for minor, non-commercial copyright infringements, a 'take-down and ask questions later' approach to pages and content alleged to breach copyright, and the possibility of Internet providers having to disclose personal information to authorities without safeguards for privacy will chill innovation and significantly restrict users' freedoms online.”
In addition, it was argued that TPP is the “first step” toward Internet censorship, Andrew Lee of Private Internet Access said in a statement. In contrast, the companies said current laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act improved innovation and kept freedom for online users.
The new trade proposal has such broad authority – and legal/economic ramifications – companies across the United States are watching its progress carefully.