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Blood in the water: Reports from the latest Trans-Pacific Partnership Stakeholder Forum

by Brett Smith Contributions Published on Mar 05, 2012 07:51 PM
I'm in Melbourne to advocate for free software users and developers at the latest round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), and I'm chomping at the bit to share a little good news with you all. The tone of the discussion here has turned much more friendly to us—and it's thanks to your activism.

Officially, the TPP negotiations are secret, but based on leaked text and what we've heard from negotiators, it looks like once again the United States will try to use this trade agreement to promote even more draconian copyright, patent, and anti-circumvention legislation internationally. In past negotiating rounds, negotiators heard plenty of opposition to such proposals from the groups you'd expect, like the FSF, Knowledge Ecology International, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Now, that tent is expanding.

TPP negotiators have seen the overwhelmingly negative response to SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA, and it worries them. They want to make sure the same fate doesn't befall TPP, and several stakeholder presentations have been framed to offer a solution to just that problem. We and our allies have the easiest job of that: we simply point out that our concerns match the protestors', and TPP can do better by heeding our suggestions. Technology industry groups are now more vocally expressing their concerns and explicitly positioning themselves opposite big copyright companies. Even our political opponents feel pressured to adopt this frame: Gina Vetere from the US Chamber of Commerce took pains to note that TPP does not include SOPA's provisions, and suggested that the lesson to learn from the SOPA debate was that “all stakeholders” support the DMCA's approach to copyright enforcement. (I made sure to set the record straight during her Q&A!)

Your activism around SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA—your protests, your phone calls and letters to legislators, your Web site blackouts—have had a real positive impact on the terms of the discussion here in Melbourne. Of course, that doesn't mean our work on TPP is done. Everyone's well aware that the US trade delegation, and the companies that stand to benefit from its work, are bullheaded and persistent. But negotiators are taking our concerns more seriously than ever before. I thank you for the effort that got us to this moment, and I'll do everything I can to make the most of it during the negotiations.

Help keep the pressure up! TPP hasn't received enough attention to date—because the negotiations are secret, many media outlets assume there's nothing to report. Spread the word however you can—through blogs, mailing lists, and social media—to let your friends and colleagues know that TPP is a threat just as serious as ACTA or SOPA. Negotiators will meet several times over the course of 2012 as they rush to finalize the text. If they're coming to your town, that's a great opportunity for activism like protests and public events. We'll have more details after negotiations conclude in Melbourne, and we're planning follow-up posts with more ideas for how you can help.

We also plan to attend more TPP Stakeholder Forums so we can continue advocating for free software users and developers throughout the drafting process. Please support our efforts (and help cover the travel costs!) by joining as an Associate Member or making a donation.

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