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You are here: Home Campaigns Trading Freedom: Resources and information on the threat of international "trade" agreements

Trading Freedom: Resources and information on the threat of international "trade" agreements

by Joshua Gay Contributions Published on Nov 17, 2015 11:51 AM
Information and resources about nefarious economic and trade agreements.

Computer users all around the world face a new threat in so-called international "trade" agreements. These deals, negotiated in secret, include provisions that limit computer user freedom in myriad ways. This resource collects information and resource about these nefarious agreements.

"Trans-Pacific Partnership"

The "Trans-Pacific Partnership" (TPP) is the most urgent threat to user freedom. This deal, negotiated in secret, has been finalized and finally released to the public. What we found inside is what we feared: the TPP is a nightmare. The TPP has a number of truly dangerous provisions that harm software freedom. TPP:

  • Spreads the worst elements of the United State's Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to other member countries. The DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions create legal penalties for controlling your own software and devices, and criminalize the sharing of tools so that others might do the same. Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) undermines the right of users to control their own computing, and the DMCA compounds this injustice by penalizing users who try to retake their rights.

  • Has provisions that allow member countries to grant software patents, and may lead to the spread of software patents. Software patents threaten free software, and makes creating and sharing software a legal minefield.

  • Has provisions that extend the term of copyright, perpetuating indefinite terms of copyright. While free software licenses like the GPL rely on copyright to gain effect, the supposed deal with copyright is that after a set period of time the work will move into the public domain so that everyone may enjoy it without legal repercussions. Copyleft licenses like the GPL ensure that users can use, share, and modify a work during the term of copyright. But proprietary software has no such provisions, meaning that users can only enjoy their rights in the code once it passes into the public domain. By continually extending copyright, the bargain of copyright law is broken and proprietary software will never move into the public domain.

  • While it doesn't prevent governmental free software mandates, or prevent GPL compliance, TPP does have provisions barring any regulation that would require access to source code as a condition of importing software or devices.

  • Gives developers of proprietary software access to supra-national investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals. These "courts" allow companies to sue governments to overturn democratically created laws and policies. It means that even when activists succeed in pushing their government to create software freedom friendly policies those policies could be overturned. It also means that provisions in TPP that don't initially seem to attack software freedom could be twisted into rules that do.

If any one of these provisions come to pass, it would be terrible for users in member countries. But unfortunately if TPP passes in the United States, we will be stuck with all of these and more. Earlier in 2015, Congress passed a law granting fast track authority to the administration. This means that Congress gave up the right to review and amend TPP. It must be passed or rejected. Further, fast track ensures little time for public debate, granting only 90 days from the publication of TPP before it must become law or fail. That is why it is so urgent that we fight to stop it right now. Once TPP is in place, it will lock member countries into these terrible rules for years.

Take Action

The time is now to stop TPP. Here is what you can do to help:

Past work on TPP

FSF has worked for years against TPP. You can catch up on past actions and articles here:

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