Latest TPP leak shows systemic threat to software freedom
On March 25th, 2015, Wikileaks released a leaked chapter of the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, the multinational trade agreement that is being developed through a series of secret negotiations and aims to create a host of new restrictions. We here at the FSF have been fighting against TPP for years, as it represents the threat of a world dominated by DRM, software patents, and perpetual copyright.
The latest leaked chapter on investments lays out changes to a system of supra-national courts known extrajudicial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals. For years, these courts have enabled large companies to sue democratically-elected governments over policies that these corporations oppose. For example, Big Tobacco has used the system to block or obstruct health laws intended to reduce smoking in countries around the world.
While all of this is bad news in general, one provision in the leaked document presents a particular threat to software freedom. Holders of copyright, patent, and other proprietary interests are now included in the definition of "investor." Given the destructive nature of these provisions, the fact that proprietary developers could use them to interfere with local government protections of users' rights is cause for alarm.
But the damage doesn't stop there. The leaked provisions further clarify that these supranational courts would have jurisdiction over compliance with many of the worst provisions of TPP. That means that a proprietary developer could get a second shot at a case where they didn't like the initial outcome, potentially overturning a ruling on fair use, for example. Any country that tries to implement sane copyright and patent policy via their legislature or courts could be dragged into this sham tribunal to have that policy overturned.
The threat represented by TPP has loomed large on the horizon for many years. This latest leak demonstrates that the dangers we face increase as time goes by. Worse still, time may be running out in the U.S. to stop the madness as Obama and his friends in Congress seek to fast-track TPP approval. Key congressional leaders have now agreed on a deal to fast track the fast-tracking of TPP. Now is the time to fight back. Here is what you can do to help:
If you are outside the US, please contact your local representatives and let them know you oppose TPP.